Friday, April 28, 2006

KRISSIE: Missing in Action

I've been so caught up trying to meet my other deadline that I've left my sisters to fend for themselves. It's no wonder. Lizzie's already bedded Elric, quite deliciously, and her story is roughed in. I've still got kids at home so I have to juggle things a little differently from Jenny and Eileen. Besides, Lizzie is so focused on fixing things that it's no wonder she went into her little workshop and kept at it until she was done. While Dee is flying around and Mare is charging around (at least, that's how Jenny made her sound -- like a charming bulldozer) Lizzie's in her workshop, with the glorious Elric coming up behind her, turning her eyes and her sheets purple.
And so my novella is sitting peacefully in all its rough glory, waiting until I finish the current brilliant mess in progress so I can get back to it and give it the full attention it deserves. Start weaving in Dee and Mare, and live up to the high standards Jenny and Eileen have set.
Not likely -- Lizzie's a hard worker but I'm far too easily enchanted with my own prose.
Ah, but New York is coming!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

EILEEN: what jenny said

I should be packing my suitcase. I leave for Ireland tomorrow(with my computer. I'm going to work on poor dear Dee as I've come to think of her). Instead I read Jenny's post on character and found myself asking the same questions she did. I, of course, think Dee does have a "sucky" and "suckier" choice. Either fade away as the responsible adult wihtout surcease for the rest of her life, or succumb to her aunt and have her soul sucked out--along with her sisters' souls. She really doesn't see a way out. Of course, Danny IS the way out, but she's too afraid to consider that. After all, if she just runs off with him, she leaves her sisters vulnerable, and if at this late date she decides to do that, then she feels she's betrayed everything she's sacrificed for all these years.

And yes, there is a whiff of martyr in her. It's an intrinsic part of Oldest Sister Syndrome. I know, because I am one(a sister. Not a martyr. I'm much too selfless for that.....). In my family, we actually have an Oldest Sister Society, in which only the oldest daughter of each family is invited. Because, of course, nobody understands what we've had to sacrifice but us. As the oldest sister, I think Dee wouldn't be surprised that Mare doesn't really have too sucky of a choice. After all, isn't the youngest child the spoiled one? Doesn't she always get everythikng she wants? That's sure the way of it MY family. And all the oldest sisters gather together and talk about it.

I know. I started talking about a writing exercise and ended up extolling the virtues of the oldest born. That's because I plan on thinking about the exercise more tomorrow after I'm packed, my cat's been fed, my plants watered, my various old people soothed and, my passport clutched tightly in my hot little hand, I settle into eight uninterrupted hours. Alone. With no phone. No emergency calls. No friendly calls that seem to go on for hours when I don't have the time. No business calls that are only made to request somethign I don't have time for.
But I will have time for blogging. When I find a cybercafe. So I can keep an eye on that Mare. Cause as a youngest child, you just don't know what she's gonna get up to. Now, if she were just like Lizzie.....

P.S. We're going back to New York! We're going back to New York!! Somebody should warn them.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

JENNY: Mare, Day Whatever

Clearly writing and book tours don’t mix, much as sleeping and book tours don't mix. OTOH, writing conferences and planning a book can be pretty good. I went to two lectures by pals yesterday and started to noodle around with Mare’s plot again and discovered that I never actually nailed that plot down and that there was a lot about her character that I hadn’t realized.

The first workshop was Deb Dixon’s GMC. Every time I take this class, I learn something more, it’s just so full of good stuff. There were three things that struck me this time in conjunction with Mare;

Deb asks, "Why her? Why now?"

We set this up that the sisters’ “why now?” is because the antagonist is coming to town, but it made me think, Why is the antagonist coming to town NOW? What event happened in the antagonist’s life to inspire buying a plane ticket? Because whatever it is, I want to echo it in Mare’s “Why now?” so that even if the answers are two different events, they echo or parallel or reverse each other. A classic that won’t work here would be one is starting menopause and is having her first hot flash and the other has started puberty and is having her first period. That won’t work for this book—Mare is in her early twenties—but it’s the kind of thing I’m looking for.

Even bigger for Mare, though, is “Why her?” We started with the premise of the three sisters with a single antagonist, a really good way to start, but I never broke Mare out of the sisterhood to consider her solo plot. Why is Mare the character who drives her plot? What is she driving toward? If I know why the antagonist is hitting town now (and I think I do), why is it Mare’s turn at bat? Why her? Why now?

The second thing was Deb’s brilliant description of the protagonist’s choices as “sucky” and “suckier.”

As she explains, if your protag’s choice are “sucky” and “good,” there’s not much tension in the choice. Bob talks about this in a slightly different way; he says that in training they’d be given a lose/lose choice: neither choice would get them a win. He said watching people make those choices told a lot about who they were. So if Mare’s goal is to get out of town so that she can live freely (a goal I am not completely thrilled with) she needs to have choices (“I’m trapped here forever” won’t work) but they have to be sucky and suckier. I’m thinking in one she can stay with her sisters and not use her powers and in the other she can leave her sisters and probably not use her powers, although that last one seems a little contrived. Neither is really sucky enough. So I have to work on the sucky/suckier choice thing.

The third one is the one I love because every time I do this for a character, I learn something, Deb calls it the Dominant Impression, and it’s a pretty easy exercise: you label your character with an adjective and a descriptive noun. (Deb explains this much better in her GMC Goal Motivation Conflict book which is EXCELLENT.)

One approach to the descriptive noun is the character’s occupation, so for Mare I tried “Determined Party-Giver” since she’s in charge of events at the video store where she works. That didn’t help much although it’s a fair description of her as she’s written now. But then Deb gives an example to work with: Your character is driving down the street and hits a squirrel. Now describe the character. And I got “Guilty Driver.” That is, Mare would feel guilty about what happened, but she wouldn’t stop to save the squirrel because she’d figure any squirrel that got hit by a ton of vehicle would be gathering nuts in squirrel heaven anyway. She’d feel bad, but she’d keep on driving. And I realized that “driving” perfectly describes the way Mare moves through life. It’s as if she’s got AWD and big tires and she just keeps going, bumping over people in her path, feeling bad for them but driven to get to where she’s going. She’s not cruel, but she is self-directed, even self-centered. I really like that whole “driver” thing, especially since Crash works with motorcycles but seems to be ambling through life instead of driving. There’s got to be something lurking in there that’s part of the understructure of the story.

So thank you Deb Dixon, and everybody should buy Goal, Motivation, Conflict

Then I went to Bob Mayer’s class on character, another one I’ve seen before, and heard him talk about the Trait/Need/Flaw progression.
Bob’s example: The character’s trait is “Loyalty,” because the character’s need is “To Be Trusted,” which leads to the character’s flaw, “Gullibility.”
So Mare’s trait is “Determination” because her need is “To Control Her Life” which means her flaw is “Self-Centered Blindness.” I think.
But she has other traits. She is loyal, she is strong, she is compassionate, she is smart, she is lonely, she is frustrated . . . So I have some work to do there.

And finally Bob asked the question that I always forget to ask and that’s crucial to determining if the stakes are high enough: What happens if the protagonist fails? Or in my case, “What happens if Mare fails?” And the answer is, not enough as it stands. In the climax, huge things will happen if Mare fails, but in the beginning, there really aren’t any consequences sufficient to drive her through the story because her goal is so weak: To get out of the small town where they’re living and use her powers freely. To which the reader says, “So go.”

And then I have to do all of this with Crash. But it’s such good stuff, it’s tightening things up so well, plus it’s stuff I can do on a plane, so I’m making progress. Also, I love this book.

And a big thank you to the Desert Dreams conference for bringing in Deb and Bob.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

JENNY: Mare 3 Dreamwork

So doing this on the book tour MIGHT have been a bad idea, but I'm going to give it another shot because I actually have tomorrow night free after dinner. Then Thursday is a slammed day again, then Friday some free time . . . I'm thinking I might be able to do this.

So tomorrow I'll write. No, REALLY. Because if I don't write some fiction soon, my head is going to explode. And I think I need to do Crash's plot first. So I'm going to go to bed and fall asleep thinking about it and maybe I'll have it in the morning. Dreamwork. No, it really works. Well, it works when I don't take half a sleeping pill. We'll see how pharmaceuticals affect the creative unconscious. I'm hoping they don't take it out with a mallet.

Monday, April 10, 2006

JENNY: And now a short pause . . .

Insane day today.
Insane day tomorrow.
See you Wednesday. No, really.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Jenny: Mare 2

My plan was to take the diner scene, the scene where Mare first sits down with her high school sweetheart to find out why he left prom night and never came back, and put in his POV because I need his POV in here. But I've tried for the hour now, and it's not going to work, at least not until I step back and reconceptualize this. Because as it's written now, and I like it, it's about Mare trying to cope with choices: She didn't have any and now she has three and she's trying not to get sucked into Crash's life again since he left her before.

Which made me realize that although I do need Crash's viewpoint, I need it in his VIEWPOINT, that is, it's not just that it has to be in his head and his voice, it has to be his story. Which means I have to know what his story is. I know the end of it, but I have to figure out how to introduce it, and I think that has to be in a scene that follows the diner scene, not the diner scene itself.

Which means I just blew an hour messing with a perfectly good scene, but at least we've learned something from this, Dorothy.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

JENNY: Mare 1

I didn't get as much done as I'd planned (that should be tattooed on my forehead) but I did spend an hour reading what I'd already written and you know what? It's good. I'm happy. Mare's got a snappy attitude on her that I really like. Very brisk, mistress of the universe stuff.

But I think the version that's on this laptop is an old one, I'm pretty sure I've got more stuff at home. And thank God, that's where I'm going tomorrow.

Note to self: Update files on laptop before hitting the road again.


Friday, April 07, 2006

JENNY: So here's the plan . . .

You know it's hard working on two novels, a proposal, and a book tour all at the same time. I know, poor me, WAH.
We had originally kind of sort of planned to blog each of us once a week--especially since our book is due like NOW--but that's not happening.
But I want to get back to Mare, I love Mare, so I'm thinking that I might try the twelve days of Mare here. Promise myself to work for an hour every night on Mare even though it's Book Tour Month, just as a vacation from Book Tour Insanity. Eileen and Krissie are working on their solo novels, but they're both ahead of me anyway.
So the plan is one hour a night, I'll give to Mare and I'll come in here and journal about what I did in order to keep myself honest.
I can do an hour a night, that's EASY.
Famous last words.
Twelve Days of Mare. Starting tomorrow. Really.