characters, plotting, weight loss, writing

To Plot or Not to Plot

I’ve been working on plotting a new story and my heroine and hero and not speaking to me. I can’t seem to get in their heads and figure them out, and I really can’t figure out why. Why don’t I have a passion for these two imaginary people? I have a great story idea, but these two are not cooperating in the least.

This story I’ve been thinking about is one of a series that I want to write. The series is about three sisters, one book for each sister. Maybe I am starting with the wrong sister? I don’t know, but I need to do something about it. Maybe I should start plotting a different sister’s story and see what happens. Or maybe if I plot them all simultaneously I would get a better feel for the story world as a whole. I don’t know.

Has anyone ever experienced weirdness like this? Has anyone ever plotted several books at once? Or is it just me and my weirdness?

I’m hoping to spend some good quality time with My Book Buddy (an awesome MyBookTherapy product!) this weekend and see if I can come up with some stuff to work with. Wish me luck!

p.s. I lost .8 pounds at my Weight Watchers weigh in last night. Sigh…after being hungry A LOT this past week, I just knew I had lost more. Grrrr…..I may have to break down and exercise too.

characters

Beginning the Character Sketch

This is the week I begin to work on my new story. I’ve been thinking about this story for a couple of months now, but am not ready to share my storyline. But I will share with you who I have chosen for my main characters.

Here is Emilie, the heroine of my story. She is an art teacher at a middle school. She is cute, a little sassy, but doesn’t think she has what it takes to get a boyfriend. She’s an artsy kind of girl, a little odd, and is not one to follow the crowd. She is her own person, not afraid to be different. She is strong and independent, and that seems to scare off most guys. She is going to be fun to write, I think.

And here is my hero, Mark. I think I tried to use this actor for the hero in my medieval, but he wasn’t manly enough. I ended up using Tom Welling for my medieval. But Ashton is perfect for what I have in mind for this story. He is handsome, cocky, a little stuck on himself, but fun loving. He is the new coach at the middle school where Emilie works and thinks he’s “all that”. A total opposite of what Emilie looks for in a guy.

I’m trying something new and I know this is another story that won’t get published…at least in CBA. Unless I go with something like Marcher Lord Press. It is a paranormal story. Not about vampires, werewolves, or witches. It has to do with a special magic object that could grant my heroine her deepest desire…or cause great havoc in her life–which, of course, it does. Lots and lots of turmoil and catastrophes and fun. I am excited about this story and hope it is good practice for me in writing a contemporary.

I’ve started my character sketches in my One Note Program and have pasted lots of pictures of my two main characters, but I have a lot of thinking to do to deepen my characters. I only have about 1/10th of my sketching done, but hope as I fill out more of it, I will learn more about each one. To me, this is the fun part of writing. The daydreaming….sigh.

How do you learn about your characters? What processes do you employ to sketch out your characters?

*******SPECIAL ALERT*********
I am interviewing Jody Hedlund tomorrow at The Writer’s Alley! She is such an interesting person and you will love learning more about her and her debut book, The Preacher’s Bride. Annnddddd, she is giving away a copy to a lucky commenter! Stop by tomorrow for a chance to get a copy!

characters

My Characters’ First Encounter

My friend and critique partner, Pepper Basham,  is having an excellent series on First Encounters at her blog. She has had some fabulous authors such as Janet Dean, Audra Harders, Deb Raney, Ruth Logan Herne, Siri Mitchell, Missy Tippens, Cheryl Wyatt, and Jamie Carie.

The next two weeks she is featuring aspiring author’s first encounters and today she is featuring my scene of Malcolm and Jocelyn’s first encounter.

Stop by and get a glimpse into my story at….

Don’t forget to check out Pepper’s scene, because that girl can WRITE!

casting, characters

Creating A Casting Book

I am singing the praises of Kaye Dacus today! I have been reading through her Writing Series Index on her website and it is a treasure cove of writer helps! Here is a list of just a few of the topics in her writing series:

  • Top Ten Writer Tips
  • Creating Credible Characters
  • Making POV Work For You
  • Manuscript 101 (formating & more)
  • Voice
  • Writing the Romance Novel
  • The Inspirational Element
The topic I want to highlight today is Be Your Own Casting Director. Kaye has written a 6 part series on creating a casting book to help storyboarding. Click on the link to get to the first of her series. She goes into great detail on the “how to’s” and the “why’s”. Today I want to show you how I took her instructions and started my own! 
First, Kaye showed how she keeps a spreadsheet of movie stars, models, professional ball players, etc who she thinks would make great models for a character. She then inputs their info (hair color, eye color, height, birthdate, etc) into a spreadsheet. She can sort this spreadsheet to look for actors with blue eyes or actresses with brown hair to find one to represent a character she is developing. See her series to download her spreadsheet template. You can then use it as is, or do as I did and delete the names I didn’t know and start adding names of my own. 
Here is a picture of my spreadsheet:

Now that you’ve found the actress you are looking for, you can go to your Casting Book to find pictures of her to spark your writing and give you different facial expressions to use in your writing.

Now, you need to visit Kaye’s site to get detailed instructions on how to do this, but basically, you use Power Point to organize photos of actors. It is like a catalog of headshots that you can look through to choose your ideal character! Create a slide for each actor and alphabetize for easy sorting. Kaye has so many that she creates a folder for each letter of the alphabet.

Here is a look at one that I created:

Now isn’t that the coolest thing? Seriously, this is so easy and so much fun. Annnd, it is a GREAT way to procrastinate your editing. 😉

So what is your way of creating the look of your characters? Are you visual and need pictures? Or do you have it all in your head?

P.S. Remember to check out Kaye Dacus! She not only has great writing tips, but is a fabulous author of both contemporary and historical fiction.

ADDENDUM: Kay left a comment which I thought was so cool, I wanted to add it here. Another new tool for you…..

I’m going to throw everyone for a loop and add a new twist to this . . . in addition to keeping my casting book images in Power Point (and I have a folder for “actors” and one for “actresses,” with a separate document for each letter of the alphabet), for my last two novels, I’ve incorporated Microsoft One Note, which came with MS Office 2007, as the place where I collect all of the images I need for my WIP. 

I posted screen captures of them in this post:

http://kayedacus.com/2010/06/10/writing-tip-7-i-should-probably-write-that-down/ 

Another great resource for collecting images of characters are stock photo sites. My favorite is http://www.jupiterimages.com. I set up an account (a username/password) so that the images don’t have watermarks on them. It’s where I found the heroines for books 2 and 3 of the Matchmakers series—and they actually used one of the images I selected for the front cover of The Art of Romance. See—while it’s fun to do, it can also come in quite handy when sending cover-art info to a publisher!


characters

Timeline Needed? Really?

I’ve started working on my character charts for my new story. I was going gangbusters with the main character, thinking of awesome and unique traits….way cool stuff. And then I started giving her a family. I gave her quirky parents, hippies who were free spirits. I spun wild tales about her birth, her name, her home life.

And then I realized something most embarrassing.

My heroine is 28. Her parents got married in the 60’s.  Hhhmmmmmm….that would make her, um, MID-FORTIES.

Yep. It’s so embarrassing I decided to blog about it, showing my total newbie-ness. Showing my goofy thought processes. Letting the world see me struggle through this character building.

Okay, so now I have the heroine’s parents getting married in the 80’s. Bleh…what a decade. But, oh wait…mom can still have the BIG hair from the 80’s while in her 50’s. That’s kinda quirky, right? I’m still struggling with her father, but since I graduated while in the 80’s, I should be able to find something fun to use.

I suppose I need a timeline.  A bit tedious, I know. And yes, it will be all backstory, but to make the story work in the present, I need to have the details right in the past. It seems rather silly to go to all that trouble to make timelines and build a past for my characters, but it is important. It’s important because the past makes the present believable. It’s important because my heroine’s past makes her who she is.

So now I continue my character building, trying things out…using pencil so that I can erase when it things don’t work! It’s taking longer than I thought, but I want to be thorough. I want this next story to be TONS better than my first.

You writers out there, how do you build your characters? Any tips? Tricks of the trade?