Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Have you stepped into your character's shoes lately? Have you literally jumped feet-first into an intimate, probably odiferous detail of your character's life?
No? Well, grab a clothespin and some clean socks and prepare to be amazed at how much you can learn from a pair of shoes.
Ready? Okay, open your character's closet and ease your feet into your character's shoes, the ones they wear every day. Are they too big? too small? Let's say you're a woman, size eight, and your character is a woman, size seven. Too small, but never mind, for this exercise they magically fit.
What kind of shoes are they? Flats or heels? (Flats.) Flip-slops, sneakers, or slides? (Elegant leather slides.) Interesting. Go deeper. Sink your feet into the soles. Are they new and stiff, or comfortably worn? (Stiff, hard, and so new they hurt.) So appearance matters to your character, at the expense of comfort.
Now take a peek around the closet. Are the other shoes similar? You're puzzled: all the other shoes are casual ones, well-worn and comfy. Why has your character suddenly started wearing something different?
Kick the left shoe off now, and raise it to your nose. Yes, go on! Ugh. Sulphur and onions! So she's got smelly feet. What's that white poof of powder? Baking soda. So she's aware of the odor enough to do something about it. Why? Does she work somewhere where the occasional whiff of Foot is not acceptable? Is she dating someone, and eager not to offend? Or is she simply very conscious of herself? Is this self-consciousness why she started wearing these shoes in the first place?
There's nail polish on the edge of the shoe. Glittery silver. An unusual color. What made her choose this?
You're curious now. Step out of the shoes, and wait, invisible, as your character comes into the room and steps into them herself. Now, with the magic power of an author, enter your character. Become her, as she stands in those shoes.
Feel how her heelbones crunch against the hard soles of the slides. She's tired and discouraged. Her heels are itchy from the pumice rub she just gave them in the shower. She scuffs one against the toe of her other foot. A flake of polish chips off her toenail. Angrily, she bends over to yank at the loose flap.
You sense someone made fun of the color. A boyfriend?
“Dear mother-in-law.” An angry grunt as the polish is removed. “I can't keep anything of my own, can I? Not even this.”
Wow! Were you expecting that? I wasn't. I thought she was dating, and eager to impress that Perfect Someone. Instead, she's making an abnormal effort to please her mother-in-law, of all people. Why is the older woman's opinion so important? What does that say about Ms. X's marriage? Something's strange here, and obviously, it's crucial to the character.
See how much you can learn from sticking your feet into someone else's shoes? You can do this with clothes too, but for me, shoes work best: both men and women tend to individualize more with shoes than clothing. This is probably the single best way I know for getting to the sole of your character (pardon the pun: couldn't resist) and finding out what makes them tick. It works fantastically for exploring a new character, but try it on your tried-and-true standbys, as well. If you don't know how it feels to stand in your character's shoes, then you don't know your character as well as you should. Maybe none of what you learn will ever fit into your Epic Work, but the details you learn will change how you see your characters, and will give them depth they never had before.
Just...make sure you have a clothespin. Some of the details you turn up might be a little - smelly?
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
It's Author Interview time! Yay! Getting to share cool conversations with amazing and interesting people is my favorite part of blogging.
Candy flavor of choice? "Peppermint. Chocolate melts too fast."
Nina: Welcome to Notes From The Front, Linda! Tell us about yourself!
Linda: How I wish I could whip out some wonderful stories about how fascinating I am, but there isn’t much to tell. I’m a wife, step-mother, grandmother, with a degree in English and a grad certificate in paralegal studies, and now I’m a published author. Although I’m not physically capable of much anymore, I’m game for anything. I love fishing and hunting, canning and cooking, horses and cattle, needlework and baseball. My interests are eclectic. If I were younger, and away from all those who once told me not to, I’d add sky diver and barrel racer or show-horse jumper to the list. Oh well, c’est la vie!
Nina: Give the Lady a Ride is your first published novel. How does it feel to have a book in print?
Linda: Like a ride in a hot air balloon. In the weeks before the debut, I was scrambling to get everything prepped. Attach the flat balloon to the carrier basket, hook up the gas for the burner–or in writer’s terms, get my debut activities lined up, announcements printed and cyber-announcements posted, parties planned, guest pieces and interviews written.
As the day went on, my balloon sailed through the sky, fired by every encouraging comment and congratulatory remark.
And it’s still flying!
Nina: What is your favorite scene from Ride? What makes you like it?
Linda: There are so many it’s hard to choose, but I think my favorite comes near the end, and surprisingly doesn’t involve the hero, but one of the other ranch hands. Throughout the book, a character named “Frank” provides fatherly wisdom to the hero, Talon, about Patricia, but at the end, he shares his wisdom with Patricia too. I’m not going to reveal the scene here, but “cowboy logic” is the perfect term to explain what Frank has to say about Patricia’s ride!
The scene really revealed Frank’s character to me, and I just fell in love with him. I’m going to tell you a secret, because I’m not sure whether I’ll actually write a sequel to Ride, but I started one, and Frank is the hero of that book. I hope everyone comes to love him as much as I do, because if I do write the sequel, I’ll be presenting more of his cowboy logic. (Nina: Sequel about Frank? Oh yes yes!)
Nina: One of the hottest topics in Christian writing right now is how to weave faith into a novel without becoming preachy. I really like the practical down-to-earth cowboy faith you wove into Ride. Was it difficult to decide how much religion to put in the book?
Linda: Yes. Oh, yes. But I’ve never written anything that didn’t reflect my love for my Savior. Even in grad school, for my final grade in my criminal law class, I wrote about the Hebraic penal code (got an A too!).
Aside from worrying about how much religion to include, I also worried about religious views. I want to appeal to a broad audience, but Christians hold diverse beliefs on so many topics. Whether a new convert is sprinkled or submerged for baptism, whether dancing is allowed among the members, and so on. These topics can spark heated debates among the family of Christ.
With the folks in a cowboy church though, submerging is preferred and dancing is fine. Since my hero is a member of a such a church, I hope readers with different beliefs will forgive me if I’ve written things they don’t practice themselves.
Nina: Tell us about other projects you have simmering. Do you have a new novel on the drawing board?
Linda: Of course, I do! The Cat Lady’s Secret is about three quarters done, and I can’t wait until I can get back to it! I’m still working on the elevator pitch, but it goes something like this: Carrying a fish net as she walks around town, Millie is on a mission to catch and rescue feral cats. As she hunts, she learns of people's needs and wishes--and all these are fulfilled. But what will happen to the town's benefactor if the journalist dogging her trail reveals her identity?
Nina: Thanks so much for coming! As a wrap-up will you give us a teaser from the book?
Linda:Patricia felt her vertebrae jar each time she pounded on Tandy’s bare back. It took all her will power not to hold on with both hands . . . Cowgirl? She didn’t think so.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Spring comes. The snow melts. The birds sing. Rain is followed by the promise of sun. And my curiosity, tingled out of winter dormancy, is busy asking questions.
So! This blog post will be about YOU, not me. I’ll ask the questions, you’ll answer them. Then I’ll post again, this time with a compilation of your comments, and my own. Please spring right in, let your ideas scatter like rain, and your creativity bloom!
What season of the year are you most creative as a writer?
Do you generally find books, movies, or music to be more inspiring! (List examples!)
Is Absolute Quiet a must for you while writing, or do you work better with background noise?
Everyone has things they care about deeply, and much of the time, these fuel our writing, whether subtly or directly. What makes your heart leap and your blood boil – and have you put this into your creations?
What part of writing do you hate most? (everyone hates something!)
Name a few favorite words and/or phrases.
Would you say writing engages your mind or your body more?
There’s nothing in the world to compare with finding that perfect turn of word or phrase. Tell us about the latest one you found.
And finally – what project are you working on right now?
Monday, February 14, 2011
I love Lord Peter and Harriet’s relationship. They originally meet with Harriet on trial for her life, accused of murdering her fiancée. Lord Peter sees her in court, is immediately attracted, and sets about proving her innocence, in the course of which he manages to fall in love with her.
Harriet, on the other hand, not only has sworn off any romantic relationships, but because Peter saves her life, her (very British) pride won’t allow her to care for Peter back. Thus begins a famous literary chase which spans several novels as Peter doggedly pursues Harriet (and the occasional criminal), eventually becoming successful in Gaudy Night.
I love Peter and Harriet’s relationship. Probably the most obvious reason is Sayer’s brilliant characterization. In Peter and Harriet she pairs two extremely intelligent, independent, proud and reserved people who on first glance are clashing opposites. Sayer also succeeds in creating two equally interesting characters. Contrary to most romantic stories, where if one character evaporated the story would flop, Peter and Harriet are equally fascinating.
Then there’s the dialogue and scenarios, which range from hysterically comedic to thoughtfully poignant. In scene after scene Harriet and Peter spar with subtle wit, making every interchange great fun to read.
And finally, there’s the romance. It’s not overt. It’s very British, very subtle. And yet Sayers manages to explore the ins and outs of every romantic relationship. She shows the darkness and the light that enters into any couple’s lives, and she challenges the conventions of typical romance. In short – her brilliance in literary romance is a constant inspiration. I’ll never be that good, but I’ll definitely try!
Who’s your favorite fictional romantic couple? Why do you like them?
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Is the presence of longing inside a writer’s heart essential to writing fiction? Is the faint melancholia created by things we wish for, dream of, what puts the magic into make-believe?
Those questions have been prodding at my subconscious for some time now. The prod turned into a painful jolt when, after a summer of not writing fiction, I attempted my third NaNo in a row – and did not complete the required 50,000 words.
To tell the truth, I completed barely 5,000 words. I still don’t know quite what was wrong. I sat at the keyboard for hours. I allowed myself to leap between plots. I allowed myself to write endings before I wrote beginnings! But nothing worked. Words appeared on the screen, crafted strings of emotionless sentences, crisp-edged two-dimensional characters without character.
The spark wasn’t there.
At the time I attributed it to lack of time, to the stress of everyday life, to pregnancy hormones. Yet none of that ever affected my writing before… (okay, I haven’t been PREGNANT before, but you know)
Now I’m wondering if my life has become a little too full. Instead of a rather uneventful life that I spiced up by constantly spinning tales of adventure and romance, I started to live all those things I dreamed about. Now, I have a husband (who I’m very much in love with), a baby on the way (who is wanted very very much), multiple jobs, college, travel… I don’t have time to dream!
And is that the problem?
I pose the question to you all reading this. Has this happened to you? Do you think writers’ best work is influenced by what’s happening (or what’s not happening) in their lives? Or (as many great writers believe) should good fiction be utterly unconnected to circumstances in writers’ lives?
Share your thoughts, please! I’m eager to read them!
(oh yes, and if anyone has suggestions for how to overcome a fiction dry spell…please do not refrain from suggesting!)