Is namhaid an cheird gan í a fhoghlaim.
The craft is an enemy when not learned.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week 28, part deux: Writing the Midpoint

So last week Anah showed us the blocking for the midpoint scene. This week (a few days late), I have a chunk of that scene least in draft form. With blank spots left for details I couldn't remember in the moment.

This is one of the big advantages to writing on paper. On the computer, I would have felt compelled to go find the appropriate information. On paper, I was free to leave that information blank to come back to it later—perhaps because I know I'll be transcribing it all later anyway.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

[Anah] Week 28: Writing the Midpoint

Back after a brief hiatus! The first image will give you a glimpse of what the exercise this week is about, the second is my work on the exercise this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weeks 27-28: Writing the Climax

This week, I'm adding Nico's point of view to Anah's spinning of the climax. With Anah's vision of the scene in mind, this was easier than I'd expected—"spinning" exercises aren't usually my cup of tea.

Monday, May 16, 2011

[Anah] Week 27 & 28: Writing the Climax

This exercise was harder than I'd expected—it took me a while to get my head around doing the Spinning work for a mundane, contemporary scene. I use techniques like this for fantasy/urban fantasy work, usually, because the stream of consciousness allows me to explore the symbols and images that make those kinds of scenes gripping.

Anyway, here's the end result...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weeks 27-28: Writing the Climax

So, we decided to skip a week of exercises. Not a week of posts, though. The set of exercises that comes between the "Scene and Sequence" and the "Writing the Climax" sections were essentially repeats of things we've done before. We read them, talked about them, and decided the answers weren't worth posting. So. Moving on!

This week, it's all climax all the time.

We split up the exercises so I'm posting parts one and two and Anah will be posting part three later on. Then next week I'll post part four.

These exercises show how the climax will come together, and reflects the changes Anah and I discussed after my revelation two weeks ago. I'm pretty excited about how it's going to come together in Anah's exercise.

The Story So Far: Dianne is happy to do lists, but unhappy to repeat work.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

[Anah] Weeks 21-24: Building Scenes and the Scene Sequence, part two

James: First Meeting with Nico
James isn’t sure what he's expecting. In his mind there's this vague shape labeled “Nanny” and someone's going to come along and fit into it. He isn’t expecting a woman, so the shape is rather androgynous and sometimes has an umbrella, thanks to Bianca’s endless re-watching of Mary Poppins. What he's hoping for is simply comfortable. Someone a little warm and squishy. 

What he gets is Nico. In retrospect, he has to admit that the name sounds suspiciously like it belongs to the kind of man you’d see oiled up and looking charming in a pair of short-shorts and a tan, but with the implication that he has more in his head than thoughts of where he's getting his next beer.

“Hi there.” Nico gives him a warm smile that fades with a resounding crash from upstairs and a long, drawn-out Daaaaadddy! from one of the kids. James’ head is spinning so fast he can’t tell which one. “Can I help you out here?”

“Please.” James shoves a tangle of towels, swimwear, and backpacks into Nico’s arms. “Snacks.  In the kitchen.” He bolts upstairs toward the wailing.

As he dodges a guilty-looking Bianca and finds a whining Vali in the bathroom—the step-stool to the sink overturned—a little voice in the back of his head is muttering about how good it'll be to have a man around who can pull off the short-shorts.

James: First Kiss with Nico
James has never been able to resist showing off. He’s vain and he knows it. What helps is that Nico, it turns out, likes video games almost as much as the kids do. James is glad he thought to bring the last full bottle of wine upstairs with them, because he really needs to relax; he sloshes more into his glass and then Nico’s.

“This is very cool.” Nico lets go of the controller long enough to grab his wine, steering with his thumb while he takes a drink. “You’re trying to get me to spend my days off around the house, aren’t you?”

James puts the bottle down and picks up his own controller. It doesn’t take him more than three moves to go from idling on the sidelines to reducing Nico’s powercycle to fragments of light.

“I would never,” he says loftily, as the bits of Nico’s character rain down the screen. “I still need to get work done on those days.”

The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them, and when he looks over cautiously, Nico is just inches away. How did they get so close? Then James remembers that they’re sitting in the double papasan chair that slides everyone into a heap in the middle.

“I wouldn’t be any trouble,” Nico says solemnly.

“You’d be here,” James says. “It’s enough.” The words sound unkind so James demonstrates his dilemma, leaning in and brushing Nico’s mouth with his own. Yes, mere proximity is enough to make Nico a very welcome bit of trouble.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

[Dianne] Weeks 21-24: Building Scenes and the Scene Sequence, part deux

So last week was the "Firsts and Lasts" exercise, and this week is "First Encounter and Then". It's a confusing set of titles, but the difference is that last week's exercises were focused on individual characters, while this week's exercises are focused on building the relationship between the characters.

There's a whole list of potential Firsts in the relationship for us to write about. I chose the First Encounter and the First Fight. Anah will be doing two other scenes in her post later on.

First Encounter

Nico has just gotten to the point where he can relax during the interview when the phone rings. [Name] glances at the caller ID and shakes her head. "I've got to get this."

She picks up the phone and it's immediately clear that she's talking to the guy who will (if he's lucky, if he gets the job) be Nico's boss. Her boss. The next thing he hears, because he's been tuning out so as not to eavesdrop, is [Name] saying, "Here, let me put you on speaker," and then suddenly he's being introduced to James [Last Name], who is tearing his hair out about car seats and school schedules and damp patches on the kids' clothes from where their cereal splashed.

The last interview question Nico had answered was regarding a sick kid on an airplane. But what James wants to know, apparently, is how Nico would manage to get two kids out the door on time in the morning without needing to make three trips back inside for backpacks and lunchboxes and one right shoe. That, Nico has an answer for. He half-raised his kid sister while his mom worked two jobs. He knows how to maintain a schedule, how to talk to people through their frustrations, and he knows the chaos of dealing with a kid first thing in the morning.

The relief in James's voice is reassuring—Nico has nailed this interview—but Nico wonders about the man behind it. He'll find out soon enough. He's got the job, and he starts Monday.

First Fight

The kids are caked in mud from head to toe. Pretending to be frogs will do that. Nico gets between them and the back door, blocking their way until they take off their shoes and socks. "Upstairs to put your clothes in the hamper, then get ready for a bath," he tells them. "I'll meet you up there in a minute." He has to get their shoes rinsed off so they'll dry before tomorrow.

Vali grumps a little, but Nico knows it's just for show. The little boy loves bathtime. There are crayons he can use to write on the walls, and when he erases what he's written, there's no sign it was ever there. That kind of freedom to explore and make mistakes is something he cherishes.

Inside, they follow directions perfectly, waving cheerful hellos to their dad before heading up to their rooms. The kids are happy, but James looks tense and uncomfortable.

"We found a frog," Nico says. "Next week, Bianca's class starts learning about amphibians. She was pretty excited."

James doesn't like that the kids were so messy. Crawling around in the muck is dirty, and full of germs. They're kids, Nico reminds him, and dirt washes off. The kids had fun.

James knows. He was watching on the monitor. Nico is surprised by that, he'd forgotten all about the monitor system James showed him his first day on the job. It makes him a little uncomfortable that James doesn't trust him enough to leave him truly alone with the kids. On the other hand, he's still new. And they're James's kids. Nico would probably be even more paranoid than James if he had to trust a stranger with his kids. He remembers walking his kid sister to her first day of kindergarten and staring suspiciously at the teacher and the other kids. Yeah, he'd be worse than James.

Nico tells James that if it makes him uncomfortable, they won't play in the pond anymore. They're James's children and James has the right to set the rules and boundaries. James is quiet, then shakes his head. The kids had fun. Just be careful.

Of course, Nico tells him. Always.

The Story So Far: I realized, as I was writing the First Fight, that I have to talk to Anah about the crisis in the story. Because I have an Idea. This kind of thing is what's making me realize how valuable this new system is for our process. So excited!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

[Anah] Weeks 21 & 22: Firsts/Lasts

First Birthday Party:
James doesn't remember his first birthday party, but he does have photographs. A few of them are in the digital frame on his desk, the one that cycles the moments of his life. Later in life, it seems like the differences between him and his parents fade, but in that first picture, he looks like someone else's son entirely. He is smaller than he should be, a tiny golden-skinned boy with a glossy-black bowl cut. A pointed paper birthday hat is on his head, the only thing he has in common with the burly man and petite woman who flank him. They're smiling. He looks uncertain, puzzling at the camera.

Last Birthday Party:
James is helping blow up helium balloons for Bianca's party. It took him a while to get it the first time, but this is the fifth party he's done it for now—he ties off another balloon with an experienced twist and hands it off to Andrea. Bianca is holding court in the large dining room, instructing the party planners on where exactly to hang the glittering ribbons and where to place the chocolate fountain. He's not spoiling her, he reminds himself. He's teaching her some important life skills here, like organization and delegation. And he's going to keep telling himself that.

First Kiss:
As first kisses go, it's rather disappointing. Dry lips, sticky tongue, braces, and an audience. Spin the Bottle, James realizes, is nothing but another disease vector. So, he'll discover in a week, is Mary-Ellen. At least he comes away from the party with more than just a case of mono. He knows for sure that kissing girls doesn't do a damn thing for him. That doesn't stop him from kissing a few more once he's over the mono. But it takes another year for him to find someone really worth kissing.

Last Kiss:
James already knows this isn't going to work out. If it were, he'd have told Alex about the kids, about getting approved for their adoption and the impending visit. He kisses Alex goodbye as he gets out of bed. Alex is sleepy, lazy in the mornings—not fatherhood material, as he's always said.
   "I'll see you tomorrow night?" Alex pulls the covers up and rolls over onto his belly.
   "I'll call you." James keeps it non-committal.
Too bad he has no idea how long it'll be before he kisses anyone again—he doesn't kiss his one-night stands—because he might have kept that last date, just to get a couple more. Sex is easy to come by. Intimacy isn't.

[Dianne] Weeks 21-24: Building Scenes and the Scene Sequence

Whoops! We were so caught up in finishing preparation for a couple new stories that we completely forgot to post our exercises this past weekend. So here are mine...

This week is Firsts/Lasts, the first and last time the character did some important thing, and we decided to choose two each to write about. For Nico, I chose his first and last kiss (before the start of the story), and his first and last runs in the ambulance.

First Kiss:
The first time Nico kissed a boy, he was thirteen years old. The other boy, Miguel, was older than Nico by two years. He had dry, chapped lips and the first dusting of stubble on his jaw. Eagerness tangled up with terror inside Nico's gut and he barely managed to pull away from the kiss before he threw up all over their shoes.

Last Kiss:
Nights out with his friends had become a release valve for the stress and pressure that built up under Nico's skin each time he climbed into the ambulance. His last night on the job, they took him out for a going-away-party sort of thing. He saw the bottom of way too many pitchers of beer and all he can remember about the man he kissed was that he had dark eyes, soft lips, and they barely made it into the bathroom stall before his hands were in Nico's pants.

First Run in the Ambulance:
The first time Nico went out in the ambulance on a real job, not just a ridealong, it was looking to be a quiet night. He drank his coffee from a paper cup and thought about whether he should buy a travel mug if he was going to be doing this every night from now on. He'd just opened his mouth to ask his partner, Darnell, what he thought about the idea, when the call came in. An hour later, Nico's clothes were spattered with someone else's blood and his shoes were spattered with his own vomit.

Last Run in the Ambulance:
The last time Nico went out in the ambulance, last night of his two-week notice, he still didn't have a new job lined up. His mom had already made a list of work he could do around the house until he found something: fix the leak in the kitchen sink, paint his sister's room, things like that. She'd been letting him stay there a month already, after the lease on his apartment was up and he didn't resign 'cause he didn't know what he'd be doing after he quit his job as an EMT...and he still didn't know. But the radio crackled to life and then he didn't have to know. He just had to do his job one more time. Save somebody's life, or try to.

Monday, April 18, 2011

[Anah/Dianne] Weeks 19 & 20: Synopsis Time

Sorry I'm running late here. I wrote up the synopsis using our outlines and notes—not by hand as usual, unfortunately. Here it is under the cut as it's a little chunky.

The Story So Far: The synopsis was easier to do than I'd expected, but only because we'd had a decent go at plotting so far. I think we'll always have to expand on the scenes in the POV grid before the synopsis, so that we're on the same least for novels and novellas.

Doing the synopsis, I moved where we'd thought the break point between Acts Two and Three would fall, because I could see where the weight of the story was lying, and because this story has a longer/slower denouement than usual due to the romantic/sexual content. The reader may not need the 'schmoop' to know what's going on, but they'd be sad without it.

This is something that I keep finding (maybe from now on, I won't be shocked, shocked, I say, by this fact of life) needs balancing when writing romantic stories, especially when most of the schmoop comes toward the end.

It seems to work to interleave the last character steps forward with the romantic content and explicit sex. The end can drag if not done correctly, even without this extra weight.  Most of the rationalization/proof for the steps needs to be established already, like working on a puzzle. The character changes in the last scenes should be like placing the final pieces—you know where they go, you've got nothing left to question, but it's satisfying to drop them in place, especially when they bring in the romantic payoff.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

[Dianne/Anah] Weeks 17-18: Plotting with More Than One Protagonist

This week's task is to make a POV grid, a table that explains from whose point of view each scene will be. I was, I have to say, not looking forward to this exercise. Not because I didn't think it would be useful (I actually love the version of this exercise that shows up in The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel) but because it meant rethinking the outline.

Anah can tell you: I hate rethinking the outline. I want the outline to work. I don't want it to be wrong. Ever. :P (Anah: She takes it very personally. It's true. This is why I wait until we're nearly done the book to point out plot flaws. I have to work up to it. Also, she can't kill me that close to a deadline.)

Chapter.SceneScene NameSettingTimelinePOV
1.1Total ChaosJames's HouseDay 0James
1.2The InterviewMaddy's OfficeDay 1Nico
1.3When Can You Start?James's House/Swimming LessonsDay 2James
2.1Moving DayMama's House/James's HouseDay 4Nico
2.2Alive Below the WaistJames's Office/BackyardDay 8James
2.3Playing FrogJames's BackyardDay 10Nico
2.4BedtimeVali & Bianca's RoomsDay 10James
3.1Finding the DogDriving/Vet/James's HouseDay 14Nico
3.2Dinner Party and AfterJames's HouseDay 20James
3.3About the DogJames's HouseDay 21Nico
3.4Not Just the NannyJames's BackyardDay 30James
4.1Day OffNightclub/Cab/James's HouseDay 35Nico
4.2At the HospitalHospital/James's HouseDay 36James
4.3HomecomingJames's HouseDay 39Nico
5.1Waking Up AloneJames's HouseDay 40James
5.2Getting Ready for the DateJames's HouseDay 45Nico
5.3Out TogetherRestaurant/James's HouseDay 45James

Sunday, April 3, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 15 & 16: Sacred Objects (James and Bianca)

I liked this exercise more than I thought I would. At first the idea of connecting objects to characters felt artificial. Then I thought about how so much of what I own is sacred to me and I felt overwhelmed. I reminded myself that I'm not neurotypical and my assignment of myths and meanings to random objects isn't normal, and I felt better.

Bianca was harder to do because for a child, meaning is intense but sometimes transient. I selected what matters to her right now. Her bicycle is a real one with two wheels and she feels very grown up when she rides it around. It's even a dirt bike like the boys ride in commercials. Her hand-held video game is her connection to her father. It also makes her cool at school and is a focus of her competitive nature. Her little gold cross was a parting gift from one of her nannies at the orphanage where she lived before James adopted her. She has a lot of mixed feelings about God, but she loves Church and all the solemnity there. It's a marked contrast to her father's work and she has some vague but positive memories of Catholic ceremonies.

James' sacred objects were something of a surprise because they are mostly from the distant past and have very little monetary value. Neither do they add to his social status in any way. All of his important objects are about family in one way or another.

The Story So Far: A very interesting way to look at characters that I'm going to do from now on. This is the kind of thing I end up fumbling to make up at some important part in the story and doing it ahead of time would be very intelligent of me. Good thing I have a book to tell me to do it!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

[Dianne] Weeks 15-16: Plotting with Sacred Objects

This week, Anah and I made lists of "sacred objects" that tie to our characters. These are the objects that will follow the characters throughout the story, and each item tells a story of its own about the character it's tied to.

Vali's toy train, for example, is his favorite. Though it's meant to be painted, it's still bare, because he's worried he might not do it "right". That doesn't stop him from playing with it, though, and its unspoiled status means it doesn't show the wear and tear as much as some of his painted trains.

The Story So Far: This exercise gave me the opportunity to think about the importance of some of the objects I'd listed on the character sketches early on. Note to self: trust your instincts.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 13 & 14: Dressing Your Character

I liked this one a lot in that I got to see characters through each others' eyes. It's one of my favourite things to do, because it gives so much insight into the characters and the relationships. I think James' attraction to Nico shows through very strongly, so does Bianca's frustration with her father.

The Story So Far: You don't have to do all the exercises just right for them to work out. Sometimes what a character sees says more about them than what they're observing. 

[Dianne] Weeks 13-14: Dressing Your Character

Anah and I read through the exercise for this and... Well, okay, it was mostly me. I did the complete exercise for another book and found it utterly useless. Picking out brand names and describing a character's closet just doesn't do it for me. I already listed key components of their wardrobes back in the Character Sketch exercise, that was enough.

So we decided to do a modified version. We're focusing on the "describe the character from another character's POV" portion of the exercise, and we split it up so that I'll be writing Nico's description of James, and Vali's description of Nico. Anah will be writing James's description of Nico, and Bianca's description of James. Anah thought (and after mulling it over, I agreed) that the children's perspectives added important detail.

The Story So Far: Nico is becoming pretty clear in my head, and I've got a good handle on his motivations. I'm looking forward to working on more story-centered exercises in the coming weeks.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 11 & 12: Dreaming

I didn't like this exercise much—I write some similar things, mostly stream-of-consciousness stuff, and I find it far more useful than writing a dream.  I suppose I felt stuck in some kind of narrative structure in spite of it being a dream and having altered logic.

It didn't give me any insight into James and annoyed me more than anything.  This is one area in which I don't need another tactic, I guess.  It felt too much like writing and not enough like an exercise.

Regardless, here it is:

The repetitions/themes are about things not being as they seem, changing, falling, up being down, lack of control, separation, abandonment/drifting.  Those play strongly on James' fears and also on his career, which involves those kinds of visualizations and virtual reality settings.  I selected some images from his culture of origin (Korean)—he was educated about it and feels connected to it, but wasn't raised in it—and drew on those as I wrote the dream so as not to be stuck in my Western/Canadian framework.

The Story So Far: There's a lot about this book that's been very helpful, but it's possible to have too many ways of doing one thing.  I may be weak in some areas, but stream of consciousness foo is not one of them!  I am all about the woo-woo writing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

[Dianne] Weeks 11-12: Writing a Dream

Just as we have in the past few weeks, Anah and I split up the characters for this week's exercises. We're supposed to be writing a dream sequence for our characters. From The Weekend Novelist:
Dreams are a shortcut, a window to the soul that helps you learn more about your characters.
In completing this exercise, I found that to be very true. Here is Nico's dream:

The circled words are the words that get repeated, the symbols and images of Nico's subconscious. It was through this dream that I figured out why Nico pushes so hard against the tidiness of James's life—he subconsciously equates it with the sterility of the hospital, the crisis environment he's trying to leave behind.

The Lesson So Far: Even the exercises that seem silly can offer fantastic rewards.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

[Anah] Weeks 9 & 10: Backstory Part Two

This second exercise is starting to get into the 'writing' business of things.  For this memory, I concentrated on James' sense of hearing more than anything else. This is when he gets his first computer.

Here, you can see the other notes I made following that scene, things I didn't include and could have if I'd been writing this as a flashback.

Now, on to what James wants. His desires are still heavily influenced by his traditional upbringing and his parents, for all that his life is not what they'd wanted for him. They accept his sexuality and love him, but their dream was always for a 'normal' life for him. That's not to say they're not proud of him now, but the dissonance affects James on a deep level.

I was aware that James' parents' wishes and dreams had some effect on him but it was writing his background that let me see how much he feels he owes them for his life and how badly he wants to please them.  The pressure is all from him, not from his parents, who would be saddened to know that he still feels some sense of inadequacy around his life accomplishments, and over things he can't possibly control and still be true to himself.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

[Dianne] Weeks 9-10: Writing Back Story (Part Deux)

The second and third exercises for Weeks 9-10 are a bit more in-depth. This time, I had to choose a pivotal date and write a scene to go with it. I chose the event that made Nico begin to consider that he should make a career change.

It wasn't the first time Nico had run into this situation. It was just the first time he'd realized he was never going to stop running into this situation unless he walked away. But Nico is nothing if not determined, and a big part of who he is and how he sees himself is wrapped up in taking care of people. He grew up taking care of his mother and little sister. Now he takes care of people in emergency situations... but is there another way to take care of people? It takes him some time to figure it out, but when he finally does, he ends up in James's house, taking care of Bianca and Vali...and James.

The last exercise asked me to make a Wants List for Nico. He's a simple guy, but the things he wants are actually only simple on the surface.

What I've Learned So Far: Don't assume a pivotal decision happens all at once. And get some sleep before attempting to figure out what the character wants. (My first attempt sounded something like: "cheese. a dog. and clean sheets." which was not helpful in the least.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

[Anah] Weeks 9 & 10: Writing Backstory

This is James' back story take two, because I realized I forgot a few things I wanted in it. I forgot things anyway. Again. Going over this stuff is a great reminder to me of how lousy the mind really is at keeping track of all this. There's no way for us to remember all of it, not once we're knee deep in stories and looking at writing a minimum of four novels a year.

Not noted specifically—James is the only sibling not to have some kind of disability. Once back in the US, Graham and Marjorie continued to adopt, but with their newfound stability they decided to give homes to children who might not otherwise have them.  What I forgot to include: a move to the liberal wilds of the East Coast somewhere between '86 and '89—I meant to put it in both times and both times I got caught up in counting kid ages.

Scanning the list, it's probably easy to pick out the things that shape James. Even someone without a yen for writing can imagine the twists and turns of a boy's life as each defining event occurs.

The Story So Far: This is necessary not only as an exercise to develop deeper characters from the start but as a means of keeping track of these meaningful pieces of the characters we write. I've been lucky so far in that, for all that I complain about my memory, I have a fairly good contextual memory. If I see a trigger, I'll have a bunch of important, linked information pop up. That's great for writing. But with sleep deprivation, pain meds, the Weeb, and life in general, I've hit my limit a long time ago. I need to do this stuff, and for me it's best to do it on paper. The tactile and somatic memories link me to the things I was thinking at the time and even if I didn't capture it all, I'll retrieve most of it that way.

[Dianne] Weeks 9-10: Writing Back Story

For this set of exercises, Anah and I split up the characters just like last week. I'm writing Nico's backstory and she'll take care of James. We also decided to split the exercises over two weeks. This week, we're putting up the bare chronology, the list of dates (or, in my case, ages) and pivotal events. Next week, it'll be the little stories to go with some of those dates.

Nico's life revolves around his job and his family, and his dedication to his family is directly related to his choice of profession—both of them. This is reflected in his chronology. Very few important events in his life don't in some way involve either his job or his family.

You can see from my chronology that I changed my mind several times about whether he's an EMT or a paramedic. This back-and-forth was related to cost of education and time commitment to be ready to work. It's not shown in the chronology (because I didn't want to erase and rewrite), but Nico completed his EMT training and started work while going back to school to train to be a paramedic. All in all, the training would have taken a couple years, which is why he'd have started work before completing both sets of training.

Anah will be by later with James's chronology, and next week I'll have a bit more detail for you.

The Story So Far: I need to make a final decision about career choices before I try to write the chronology.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 7 & 8: Redux

This is my character sketch of Bianca, James' older child. She's six years old, slightly conflicted about herself at the moment. She wants to be like dad but knows she can't be, so she's a bit of a rebellious version of her father. She's definitely the rough-and-tumble kid in the family.

Bianca vaguely remembers a life before James and it wasn't a happy time for her. She's distraught at the loss of her first nanny, though she understood that it wasn't a forever-thing, and isn't too sure how she's going to feel about a boy-nanny coming into the house. Time will tell.

The Lesson So Far: Don't make Dianne do a character sketch, then bring up a new idea. Also, I did the last sketch more in my character-builder style and I have yet another, more complex, way of doing them that I still like better. That's kind of a "collage" of scenes of the character, anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph.  This is a good start, though, and easy to add to a character glossary type collection of notes.

[Dianne] Weeks 7-8: Creating a Character Sketch

Last week, I posted Nico's character sketch and Anah posted one for James. This week, we're doing the kids. Vali and Bianca are James's adopted children. I did the character sketch for Vali (below) and Anah will be by later with a character sketch for Bianca.

Vali is a precocious four-year-old boy with a deep-seated need to have everything the "right way." He wants to be just like his daddy, and he sees how important getting it "right" is to James, so he wants that for himself, too. In a four-year-old, this can be somewhat complicated by emotional and physical development, and that definitely came through for me while I worked on his character sketch.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 7 & 8: Creating a Character Sketch

I really enjoyed this. I like this part of character creation. I think this says a lot about who a person is and what they value about themselves.

James is a young businessman of Asian-American heritage who values his appearance, his reputation, and the illusion of being completely "together" at all times. That absolutely shows in his grooming and his style. He knows that his love of grooming could be considered "unmanly" but he excuses it by saying that showing competency and attention to detail in his person subconsciously convinces investors that they can trust him.

[Dianne] Weeks 7-8: Creating a Character Sketch

This week, we're writing character sketches for our novel. There's a pretty specific list of characteristics we had to identify. The idea is that we'll get to know our characters' physical attributes and the physical representations of their personalities.

I did a character sketch for Nico, one of the two main characters. You can see it here:

You can see that I really focused on showing his personality in his physical attributes. His casual attitude shows in the clothes he wears, something I expect to be contrasted with James' clothing choices. His earrings are a clue to impulsive nature, and his open pose hints at his honesty. Every choice I made for this sketch was meant to show something important about the character.

Later today, Anah will be along with her character sketch of James. I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weeks 5 & 6 Redux: Spinning Down the Page

This weekend, Dianne and I did the "spinning" exercise in a Google document that allowed us to edit the same piece simultaneously. Once you get over the weirdness of writing in front of someone, joint writing like this is really very efficient. This exercise was surprisingly fun and surprisingly long.

For your viewing pleasure, Dianne 'filmed' the process and you can view it here:

The text itself is available after the jump.

We decided to alternate every two lines, allowing each of us to work off what the other had done before taking a tack of our own. I've found these exercises to be helpful in the past for my personal use as a warm up and a kind of tuning process. Done jointly, it was equally helpful (from my perspective) to let us exercise being in tune with each other.

The story so far: Anah and Dianne don't know nearly enough about video editing, but they are pretty good spellers. They can finish each others' sentences with relative alacrity and can spin a pretty good yarn.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

[DIANNE] Weeks 5-6: Spinning Your Novel Down the Page

There are two ways that The Weekend Novelist suggests doing the "writing down the page" exercise.

Image and Action is one—you write down an image, then a related action.

Action: Nico takes his seat in the office.
Image: Tattoos peeking out from beneath dress clothes.

The other is Ripping Down the Page—you simply tell the story, but without worrying about punctuation or sentence structure. There's no editor here. Line breaks come in the middle of the page, to keep the focus on the story rather than 'how to write'.

Nico is a Cinderella boy, burnt out on saving lives, wants to
help people some other way. Lives with his mother, good
woman, but he needs a home of his own. Nanny job seems like
the answer, at least for now.

Anah has already tested the Image and Action method and has decided it is Not For Her, as sometimes happens. I think it might work well for evoking images for specific scenes, but in my experience, I need more of a whole-story approach to get me through.

Now that Google Docs supports editing via iPhone/iPod Touch, we've started writing our next novel in a Google Doc. We discovered that we can write simultaneously—and we like it.

...and then we realized it would be perfect for this exercise.

I figured out how to record my screen, so next week, you'll actually get to watch us do the exercise.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 3 & 4: Redux

Looking back on weeks 3 & 4, I think that the circle method of laying out information and plot is more useful to me in terms of story structure.  The straight line is excellent for looking at timing of events but it doesn't evoke the same scrutiny of symmetry as the circle does.

Maybe it's because I've always been a mythology buff, but the circle definitely resonated with me more, at least in terms of plotting a romance.  In a romance, I find I want what is described in the Hero Cycle: to cross a threshold, enter into another state, travel in that state, then cross another threshold to emerge into the world again. Falling in love is entering into that altered state of being and the H/H emerges at the end with a different relationship to the world. One enters the adventure as a single entity, lacking something specific, and emerges from that haze of love and trials as part of a dual entity, with that lack fulfilled.

This is my sketch that I did of Nico's journey, because it was the one that spawned a lot of my interesting thoughts about the circular plot diagram.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 3 & 4: Plotting along a curve

Naturally, I did everything backwards from Dianne, which you will see when I post my pictures next week.  James' journey is fairly mundane in my eyes, where Nico undergoes this immense transformation.

In the meantime... (No, I am not following the book here, did you really expect me to follow the book?  Do you even know me?) I will tell you the story:

Nico is a KNIGHT (paramedic) who gives up his knighthood to become a SERVANT (nanny) because he's lost himself and is seeking a rest in which to find himself again.  He enters the CASTLE of the KING (James) by passing the test of the GATEKEEPER (James' PA) and is given the task of guarding the King's TREASURE (children).  The King doesn't understand his treasure: YOUTH, INNOCENCE, SPONTANEITY, because he has set his own aside.

Nico takes the children to the WATER (pond) in which they find FROGS (symbols of transformation, hidden princes). James is displeased, but is convinced not to be angry.  Later, Nico attends a formal BANQUET at which he meets the other nobility in James' realm and also eats the FRUIT of James' table like Persephone eating the seeds of the pomegranate.  This makes him part of James' family.

When Nico is traveling with the children, they find an injured DOG (symbol of the instinctive and primal SELF). Though it is injured, Nico saves it and later convinces James to give the dog a place in the home, bringing in the unmediated self and giving it a place in the castle. The dog is also a guide to compassion and empathy, a connection between James' world and that of his children.

Nico DEPARTS the house when it is his time off and he ENTERS THE UNDERWORLD of his old life as represented by the night club. Nico has the choice between giving into temptation and partaking of the offerings there and remaining loyal to James. Because of his loyalty, he has maintained a CONNECTION to James (his phone) and James is able to draw him home.

The OLD KING (James' father) has lost his HEART (heart attack) and James must go and help him recover.  He leaves Nico to DEFEND his castle and Nico must give James HOPE and FAITH to sustain him while he is gone. James is given the opportunity to betray Nico's affections by telling the old King and Queen that Nico is only a servant, but James cannot because he no longer sees Nico as his servant. James remains loyal and returns home to Nico with their bond intact.

Nico is elevated from SERVANT to KING when he spends an entire night in James' bed and remains there at DAWN (threshold, new beginnings, sun=crown). James presents Nico to the children as his partner and gives Nico an equal share in his TREASURE by doing so. He then takes Nico out into the WORLD as his equal and Nico's story ends with Nico having his new place at James' side.

[Photographs to come when I find my (@*#&$@# camera!]

The Story so far: Anah discovers that all her Tarot and mythology studies are good for something other than crowding her bookshelves and also loses her camera. She managed to follow the rules for one week and then blew it, but what else is new?

[DIANNE] Weeks 3-4: Plotting Along the Curve

So after the first week of exercises, Anah and I sat down and figured out the conflicting climaxes problem—the answer turned out to be an entirely different third climactic moment that we agreed was more appropriate as the key to the story's resolution.

I went into the third and fourth weeks of exercises thinking about that problem, and coming at it from that perspective helped me a lot in my effort to make the story conform to the Mythic Journey and Heroic Cycle plot formats.

The heroic cycle seems to work well for James's character arc—he sets off on a grand adventure in terms of bringing Nico into his life, and he comes home when he grants Nico "insider status" in his family, rather than the outsider he's been up to that point in the story.

The mythic journey feels more appropriate for Nico's arc. He escapes the "cage" of his childhood and sets off a road of trials, facing James's conflicting needs as well as temptation from his friends. He defeats the Dragon by proving himself as a member of the family and not just an employee, and reaches home when he attains insider status in the family.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Anah comes up with!

The Story So Far: Dianne discovers that the heroic cycle and mythic journey are more fun to apply to contemporary romance when the stages and thresholds aren't taken at face value.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 1 & 2 Redux

So, Things I Learned From Doing This Exercise AGAIN.  Not to capitalize so much.  No, really, I learned that I didn't know nearly enough about a character I was "leaving to" Dianne.  That's a bad habit of mine largely borne of not wanting to step on her toes.  

I don't assume about anything she's got going on because I want to let her have her say.  I was raised to believe that I was a conscience-less steamroller who never let anyone have any say.  Some of that may be true because I have ADHD and a slightly largish brain, but it's rather buggery when it comes to leaving blanks in my mind for Dianne to fill in as we go.

Other things I learned is that having a migraine is a full-time job.  I'm barely able to keep up and this is the first go-round.  Speaking of round, I think our next section is on circle-plots.  I did, all humour aside, learn what a bloody burden it is to have my brain trying to outgrow my skull.  

The Story So Far: If this exercise of writing things down (preferably on large pieces of paper with lots of colours) is the only thing I take from this book, I'm ahead.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

[ANAH] Weeks 1-2: Plotting Along A Straight Line

Already, this process is awesome. I can't believe I didn't do this before. I love it. You can click through to see the results, so far, of my attempts to do this for Together for the Kids. I'm looking forward to seeing how this turned out for Dianne. I want to do one of these using Nico as the focus. I think that'll really help enrich my understanding of the story.

The Big Picture

What it took me a long time to grasp is that even if I have an idea, I only have an idea... it's like having an egg and thinking that the shell is the whole egg. The shell holds a wealth of potential. Whether I break it open and cook with it or nurture it and hatch it, I don't know what I have (and I can't work with what I have) until I understand that there is something inside that I don't yet know.

When the authors of WE/N say that messiness is king in this process, they are talking my kind of game. I love to use all kinds of paper, including sketch books (they come in the most amazing sizes and proportions), to lay out my ideas. An 18"x24" sketch book frees up the hands and mind. I have even bigger ones--the huge pads of paper used in teaching and workshops are also wonderful.

If you have a process that you find reliable, putting it out on a huge sticky note can be a great way to keep it in view and to remind yourself that you've committed to the work. They have ones the size of this huge easel pads. And, awesomely, you can use smaller sticky notes all over it. If, like me, you're hooked on those, this is a great way to use your collection.

The Story So Far: Anah discovers that she doesn't know nearly enough about how SHE writes (much less about WRITING) but there's hope for her yet.

[DIANNE] Weeks 1-2: Plotting Along a Straight Line

Reading over the description of this process, I wasn't so sure I was going to like it. And then I got into it... and liked it so much I did it for a second story!

I've looked over Anah's process post and, wow, this assignment was perfectly designed to highlight how differently we do things. I started laughing right away, because finally someone other than the two of us will be able to see how insanely differently she and I think about things... and yet somehow we make it all work.

Anah's plotline was James-centric, but I actually put both Nico and James on my plotline. I also noticed that she and I see the 'climax' of the novel at different points. I suspect we'll have to talk about that and figure out how and why we're thinking about it differently, and where we need to place the emphasis.

The Story So Far: Dianne discovers that the outline isn't the only valuable tool she needs in her writing toolbox.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Process

This Last year, Dianne and I discovered the Weekend Novelist books. In classic style, we both read the rewriting one first, then looked at The Weekend Novelist. Because it had such a coherent system and such good ideas, we decided (well, I made the suggestion and Dianne gamely went along with it--I can't believe she trusts me after all these years) to do the "dynamic 52-week program" over the next year.

If all goes well, this will give us a chance to learn some new techniques for working together, and we'll get an extra novel out of the next 12 months.

The exercises in each chapter generally span a 2-week period. Some we'll be doing together, some we'll both be doing, and others we'll split up--depending on what we'll get out of each exercise. For us, the purpose is to better learn each other's paradigm and expectations, to communicate better with each other, and to get to where we can each work effectively and independently without working unilaterally.

At least post about a chapter will be about the process involved, the other will be about the product. That means you can look forward to seeing photographs of our notes and diagrams as well as excerpts of prose--no matter what works or doesn't work.

Feel free to follow along or grab a copy of the book and work on your own novel.

Amazon: The Weekend Novelist
                The Weekend Novelist on Kindle
B&N: The Weekend Novelist

Coming soon... So, what ARE you writing, anyway? 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

getting started

it's our first weekend! i'm sick and can't find the book in my filthy office, you have the book and probably a list and are also getting us a website. ...sounds like we're starting off right.