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

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.