THE CHATTER BOX

The Characters Speak . . .

 

May 04, 2016

They really do! Usually after I’ve had my say, of course. . .

I’m actually blogging now! We newbies aren’t always certain what to do at first, but I’ve  determined it’s basically just shooting the breeze, only in written form, and sans any arrows or guns. And Lord knows I can chatter with the best of ’em, and adore writing as well, so I should eventually be able to master this. (Or at least get a few thoughts across?)

I wanted to address characters today, though my own have evolved to becoming “friends” of mine, if you will. And while I realize this may sound a bit bizarre to some, I assure you we don’t actually do lunch or gather to socialize in a Meetup group we created–rather, they make themselves heard in oftentimes inexplicable ways (maybe I won’t even be “so-so” at this blogging thing?), and tend to seize the reigns whenever the horses veer off the trails, which can be fairly often.

But they’re that real. And that determined . . .

I’ve read articles and posts where contributors were baffled that a character could actually take control of a story, but I’m here to tell you that it can and does happen. “But you’re the one writing it,” the nay-sayers respond, to those who share my sentiments, “how in the world does that even make sense?”

Baffling, indeed. And maybe to no one as much as we authors, especially when we find ourselves giving in to those characters.

When I was writing All Dressed In Red, my first novel, the plan was for Ben Rugby to be the main character’s (Rico Taylor’s) sidekick, and that would be the extent of his role. Rico’s partner in sleuthing . . . the proverbial thorn in Rico’s side who continually jabbed at him, and nothing beyond. But not even a third of the way into the manuscript, Ben informed me of his own master plan: “You think I’m going to just sit on the sidelines and watch while the game plays out? I’ve got news for you, sister–I may be the underdog, but people really relate to underdogs, so get with the program while there’s still time.” Sheesh . . . forget the mouthfuls–this was an earful! Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of what Ben had to contribute was he turned out to be right, so thankfully our debate was a short-lived one. (And they say women are the opinionated ones . . .)

Ben’s really progressed, he has–now he’s convinced me to write a sequel, and once again, I’ve humbly caved.

Funny thing happened in between, though–Brain Seize was written, and crazily enough, the same scenario occurred with yet another male character, only in a different respect. Not even a quarter of the way in this time around, the MC Quinn Woodstrum stood firmly (with hands on hips, I’m fairly certain), and stated: “Um . . . no way! Find some other doofus for this role. . . it isn’t my cup of tea.” So needless to say, we didn’t share a pot of tea, either, and the cookies I’d have made to accompany it if we had would’ve crumbled anyhow.

Avid and proficient speakers, these characters are . . . I’m thinking they could even have blogs of their own.  Crazy thought, maybe, but not an unfounded one from my vantage point .

But just so you know, we’re all still buds . . .

 

Alternate Landscaping

 

May 02, 2016

To be more specific, editing your work. We all have to do it . . . even before the manuscript or other intended submission makes it to an actual editor. And once it does, you really do discover that the most beneficial assistants are right in your shed–the pruning shears, weed-whacker and hoe, to be precise. (Er . . . not what you’re thinking regarding the last one?) These tools aren’t just for gardening. . .

I happened to learn that the hard way, though . . . sent All Dressed In Red to an editor prior to visiting the shed, and was not only appalled at the amount of revisions made when the manuscript was returned to me, but immediately saw red–not just in the title, persay, but within the text, both literally and figuratively. Bold, flamboyant, in-your-face red . . . known to fire one up like one preps a cannon. (Red can ultimately cause you to turn blue . . . did you know that?)

Anyhow, I read through the manuscript, overwhelmed at first, but then increasingly more focused . . . noting as I went along that my novel had been transformed. Not the voice or style or characters or plot, but specific words, lines and paragraphs that previously appeared to be dragging those aspects of it down. Some had simply been trimmed (where the pruning shears undoubtedly came in handy), others were cut rather extensively, since they weren’t necessary to what I was attempting to convey (gotta love that weed-whacker!) while a select few had been completely excavated. (That’s the type of hoe I was referring to.)  And in yet other areas, precise rearranging had obviously occurred–sort of like moving the furniture around in your living room to produce the most attractive and dramatic effect.

But . . . Wow! It looked so much better! And the further I ventured, the more immersed (reabsorbed) in the story I became, occasionally reminding myself, “Hey . . . I wrote this!” Upon accepting and rejecting the changes, I also methodically analyzed each one and read the respective comments that my editor was kind enough to leave, and this, I think was where I really realized . . . yard work never killed anyone–in fact, it could end up making the results of your “landscaping” the talk of the neighborhood if you put enough effort into it. (Maybe even the town?)

In essence, don’t fear the pruning shears, weed-whacker or hoe (sigh), nor the hedge-trimmer or mower, for that matter. They’re there for a purpose . . . primarily to spruce up what inadvertently became scraggly and overgrown, and to eliminate any pesky intruders that surfaced while you were side-tracked, and contribute nothing to the visual glory. (At least I think that’s how it plays out. 😉 )

One final tidbit . . . if there’s ever a time that you’re also fearing you may have spread manure in lieu if topsoil, don’t panic . . . it’s really very common, and oftentimes only perceived as being manure. (Might help to pinch your nostrils closed.) And even if it actually is manure, I’ve heard it promotes growth like nobody’s business, and that’s a PRODUCTIVE addition as opposed to being an adverse one.

Just sayin’ . . .

 

 

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