Researching Simple Things

pikuroa

As I get prepared for SoCNoC, I feel that I am the most prepared I have ever been, and that is simply because I have been researching.

Not indepth or anything, just little things, like how to track cellphones on GPS, what the Maori name for the twisted greenstone pendant and the Clean Slate Legislative Act.

Sometimes it is these little simple bits of research that could make or break a story.  I wanted the story to have authentic information, not movie magic, or mystical ways of obtaining information over the internet.  I wanted to make it realistic as possible – and it is incredibly simple to track a cellphone – worryingly simple!

But this research is also part of a greater plan – world building, which we(RWNZ Nelson) learnt from Nalini Singh is about creating an authentic, realistic and believable place for your characters to live, act and breath in, and have the reader wanting more – hence the above links.  Because it is strangely easy to achieve.

My planning document for Cursed Love currently stands at 15 pages.  A remarkable accomplishment considering I haven’t finished planning the story – but I do have character sheets for my main characters and one of my secondary characters.  I also have information on each characters background that I deemed necessary.  Most of this information won’t make it into the story, but it is there for me to refer back to.

I have to admit, I have had fun with this,  such simple things have come to life, brainstorming has answered some problems.  Lying in bed, trying to drift off at night has also given my brain a chance to mull things over and make some decisions.  My characters are indepth and have personalities, my settings are realistic, the circumstances of the story all mesh together.  It is amazing how the muse can come up with ideas that initially I would dismiss, but on further investigation, it seems more viable.  My Hero was supposed to be a player, but he decided he wanted to be a widower with a kid.  It works in extremely well for the story, better than I hoped as it turned out.

So, roll on 1st June – can’t wait to get things up and running  🙂

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Character GMC

I was recently having trouble trying to make an action fit a character, and someone said to me – what is there motivation.  And it gotMedusa me to thinking about what was motivation?

I had a look through various writer sites and come up with some very good information – including Pub(lishing) Crawl.  What I found were various different versions of the same thing, but this is how I interpreted it:

Motivation is what makes your character want to act the way they do.

Then I found out about GMC – Goal, Motivation and Conflict.  This makes Motivation make all the more sense.  This is how it works:

Goal is what the character wants – Esmeralda wants to know what true love is

Motivation is why they want the Goal. – Esmeralda has never experienced true love and at the age of 35 thinks it is about time.

Conflict is the obstacle that stops the character from achieving the goal. – Esmeralda is blind and unable to see, so nervous about meeting people.

How damned simple is that?  I really struggled with it, but when it is broken down like that, it is so easy to understand!  Durrr, blond moment (and I am allowed to have them, I am blond under all the dye!)

This GMC can be applied to scenes, chapters, the entire story, or just a part of it.  This is what makes the character more real, gives them a goal to accomplish, shows you what the conflict will be.  Remember one thing:  The character does not necessarily have to achieve their goal.  There may change their goal  – using the example above, Esmeralda’s dating experiences are all failures, and she is upset, and decides to spend the rest of her life on her own.  This could change again, when her best friend, a man with a badly burned face convinces her to give it one more try… with him.

The motivation is really the backstory, which you should have noted down on your character sheets, and yes, character sheets and backstory are REALLY important.  All together, these will give your characters well rounded histories, help you flesh them out as flawed humans that they are, and allow you to understand your characters better.

Have you ever completed a character sheet for your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s)?  Did you find them useful?  Do you use GMC for your writing?

Characterisations

Lately, I have been searching for pictures on the internet of men and women that I can use to be characters in my books.  The reason I have chosen this line of “thinking” is because it makes it easier for me to visualise them.  I am obviously a visual learner, and I need to see what I am writing about.

For my latest story, The Gamble, I have three main characters.  Astra, Evan and Gryphyn.

karl 4Gryphyn is a strong man, strong character and also a selkie.  He is wise and knowledgable and so in love with Astra.  When looking for pictures, I immediately thought of Karl Urban.

paul bettany 1For Evan, I wanted someone who was weasel-like, but bigger physically than Gryphyn .  Paul Bettany is the best fit for this role, good looking but also menacing.

Astra is a timid little woman, who has been suppressed by her family and her husband, Billie piper 2Evan. She finds it hard to accept the truth because of the life she has been given.  Billie Piper immediately came to mind, because she can be meek and mild, but show some fire if she needs to.

See how having the pictures you are able to visualise the characters.  I know the vital stats of each actor and able to assemble that into the information I have already done on my characters, so I know heights, eye colour, hair colour etc.

Because of the pictures, I am able to build a better idea of my character, their traits and why they act the way they do.  Before that I was struggling to see the characters, other than a petite blond, a big dark haired bear like man and a weaselly looking character.  Having their facial features makes it visually more apparent to me what they are like on the inside (even though I don’t know what they are really like).

If you struggle with characterisations, try having a look on the internet.  Try typing in obscure words like “rugged, handsome, blond, male”, ” petite blond female”, or “brunette male, muscular” and see what pictures come up.

Debating our Characters

My friend Cassie just wrote a post about one of her characters, a bad guy that she has gotten to know through writing about him.  And this got me to thinking about writing characters and how they fit into stories.

My stepson was talking about studying to become a lawyer.  Great Idea, I said.  You are good at arguing, but suggest you join a debate team.  Debate team?  Why?  Because then you get good at arguing a point, whether it be one you agree with or not.

And it struck me, quite often we have to write a story with a character we don’t like, but we have to like them.

Let me clarify that for you, because even I am getting confused.  Sometimes we have “bad guys” in our story, you know, the one that gives the hero(ine) a hard time.  Sometimes we just hate these people, they are only there to advance the story.  But sometimes, we need to investigate further into why they don’t like the hero(ine).  What was it that they didn’t like?  What happened in the past to make them hate the person or is it what they stand for.

Sometimes we need to have a better understanding of our bad guys, before we can write them into the story, so that we can make sure that their ideals are put across.  We don’t have to agree with their ideas or theories, but to understand why they made the decisions they did to become who they are, helps us to write them better.  And if we write them better, we write our hero(ines) better.  Hope that makes sense.

Here is an example.  I had a bad guy in one of my very early stories, and as far as I was concerned, he was down right bad.  But I couldn’t really see his evilness, I couldn’t portray it in the story.  Cassie (ever wonderful woman she is), asked me why he was evil.  That really put me in my place.  Sephron was just evil, there was no two ways about it.  But thinking further about it, I realised that he was full of resentment, his father had rejected him.  His mentor was a dark lord, and trained him in the dark arts.  He chose to use those arts for the purpose of controlling mankind.  He had a hatred of all things good, and worse still, he hated his twin brother.

Now I understood what made Sephron tick, I was able to really write his scenes from a different perspective, from the point of view of someone who had a skewed view of the world, tainted by his upbringing and his mentoring.

So there ends the lessons for today, have fun with writing and remember to always go a little bit deeper into your bad guys, because they might just have a silver lining.

SoCNoC Debrief

It has been a hectic month, full of drama, adventure, passion and glory, and that ISN’T in the story!

So where do I start?  I guess the start would be good.  I was a day behind from the get go because of a funeral, but that was OK.  I managed to slowly claw my way back and finish before lunchtime on 30th of June.  Probably the closest finish I have ever had, but a finish is a finish.

Planning

This was done a month beforehand when I decided to let strangers and friends pick the story for me.  They chose, out of the possible three options, the Science Fiction one.  So a week before SoCNoC officially started, I was busy pulling together all the threads of the story I had sketched out and drew up my plan.

While I love planning a story, I also love following the plan, and I have to admit I didn’t realise that there was a flaw in my plan.  I hate flaw plans (hahaha).  Seriously I still have to work this one out, but I have an idea, which was duly noted in my “Edit later notebook”.

My writing actually took off this challenge and hovered about 6 inches above my plan.  While it was close enough, it was also different enough to keep me writing, and if I came to a hitch, I would go to bed at night and ask the question – where exactly do you want me to go?  Kelvaras or Vyvica would tell me, without fail, exactly what they wanted to see happen, and sure enough, it fit within my plan.

The ending was different, more dramatic, but it fits perfectly.

Writing

I managed to write at least every day, even though there was a long weekend in there.  Because I set a realistic writing goal of 2000 words a day, I actually managed to get ahead of my goal by about day 12.  Words flowed, sentences made sense, paragraphs formed scenes.  Fantastic work.  I did realise though that some of my action scenes were sadly lacking.  ONe chase scene lasted two sentences.  A chase scene that doesn’t make!  I went back in and created an entire new scene which was filled with action, adventure, near misses and realistic timing.  And it worked.  It also brought the characters together, so adds more to the emotional conflict that is going on as well.

Characters

I am so looking forward to having my head back to myself.  For too long Vyvica has been in there screaming at me to take notice of her.  Kelvaras was absent until the story, and then I had them bickering in my head.  So looking forward to peace!

Kelvaras certainly had some surprises of his own, suddenly calling himself an underling (which I had to tell him was not happening), then calling the bad guy “Father.”  Now that worked nicely!  And fits the ending so well too – how could I have not seen that before!

Vyvica was a handful from the beginning.  She was argumentative, vindicative, untrusting, she questioned everything I did for her, and I threw her in the deep end.  She swam.  I am extremely happy with her as a character.  Hard as nails, but heart of gold, just has problems showing it.

The other characters in the book have really turned themselves into nice people too, except for the bad guy.  He needs work.  And I don’t want him to be evil, he is just out for something and that needs to be clarified.

Title

I haven’t come up with anything yet.  I will have to rework it and see what happens.

Editing / Rewrite

I want to add more to this story, at least another 25k, which I think I will plan and work on before I actually edit this story.  Only because it needs to keep readers on the edge of there seats.  It does that at the beginning, there are moments in the middle, then a fantastic ending, but the middle could be stronger.  More conflict, more plot details I think.  But at least I recognise that.

Overall

Considering this is my first science fiction story, I am actually very happy with it.  I like the characters and the plot, although that almighty plothole (hehehe) definitely needs to be fixed.  But nothing a wee bit more thought can’t hurt!

Characters

I am relieved in a way that the Ice Planet story was chosen, because the main female character has been driving me nuts for some time.

Vyvica is her name.  I tried to rename her several times, and even give her a royal title, but she refused.  I wanted a distinctly Gothic name, but couldn’t really think of anything.  I liked Vy, and she kind of suggested to make it “spiky”, so Vyvica it became.

Let me tell you about Vyvica.  She first started invading my mind about two years ago.  She is very forceful and told me that she wanted a strong story to go with her.  She has got it, in fact it is the most action packed story I have written.  Already in the first two scenes, she has been shot at, lost one of her  best friend’s, and about to have an emotional breakdown.  (Don’t tell her I said that!)

Vyvica is a strong willed person, and the head of the army.  She has to be, there is no way she would have been obedient enough for me to start the story with her lower than commander.  She is very straight laced, has few friends and demands respect.  By the end of the story, she is going to be a completely different person, I can assure you of that!

The main lead character is Kelvaras.  I have loved the name since I first heard it.  It is based on a town in California (although I am sure it is spelt Calvaras) and the name just inspired a vigilante type of loner.  He isn’t in it for anything except the pay packet.

Vyvica and Kelvaras are both strong characters in their own rights, and I expect sparks to fly when these two meet.  Especially when they start having to trust one another, which is something that neither wants to do.  Neither of them trust anyone except themselves, another aspect of the story that will change by the end.

I am unsure at this stage whether one or both will survive the ending of the story, I have some possibilities at this stage, and I am pleased to report that so far, the story hasn’t really followed the one I have plotted, but it isn’t too far away from it either, so when I need to bring it back, it won’t be a big stretch.

So anyway, how are others going with their writing?  What do you like/dislike about your characters?

Genre – Hot Topic

My friend Cassie recently did a post on Genre, and how she was feeling trapped into writing the same genre every time she wrote a story.  Which made me think about my own writing.

While I don’t like writing chick lit, or murder mystery or anything more mainstream, I can’t say that I am stuck in any particular genre either.  The first two (four if you count each separate story in the soon to be non existent trilogy) stories I wrote were fantasy, because that was what the characters insisted on.  But the next one I want to write is more historical – it is still fantasy, but it is also based on mythical fact from ancient Greece, so a bit of research had to go into the story.  The one after that, well who knows, it all depends on who will pop up next I suppose.

What I suppose I am trying to say is that I am not driven to write any particular genre, I am driven by my characters.  Tycelon and Delonia were definitely Fantasy, as are Fabyan and Danya – although their story is more of a romance than action as in Chrystias.  My characters invade my life for the duration of writing.  I lived with Tycelon for close to 6 months, and now while I am editing the story, I can hear him in the background, not as forceful as he used to be (Boy was he forceful!). 

Currently, I have Medusa fussing around in my brain, trying to make me see her as a real person, which she no doubt was at one stage in history, all myths started with a base in reality!  While I haven’t concentrated on bringing her into the light of day yet, I can hear her giving me little snippets of information about her character, her mannerisms, her personality that will be reflected in the story, and hopefully I will be able to do her justice.

So I don’t feel trapped by any particular genre, I suppose it depends on the setting the characters give me, and if one should turn up who wants to be chick lit, then I guess I will have to write it – it had better be a good story though!