Monday, November 2, 2009

Breathing Life Into Characters

Audra here : )

If you've written with the intention of selling to the romance market for as long as I have, undoubtedly you've attended more workshops and read more books on the techniques of writing than you could ever count. It's continuing education, right? You never know what online class or workshop is going to make that light bulb go off in your head and give you a clear vision of everything that you've been doing wrong all these years.

Well, that of course is if you are an extremist. Personally, I think I do a lot of things right, it's just not the right editors are looking for : )

Over a year ago, I queried an established agent, well-known in romance marketing circles and she responded with a request for a partial. Oh happy day! I whisked my partial out the door with high hopes that this agent would consider representing me. Much to my surprise, a few days later I received an email from her. Even though she passed on representing me, we did email back and forth about the the proposal I'd sent.

First of all, she said I had talent and a unique voice and she assured me she thought I'd be published someday. She even liked the proposal I'd sent except for one thing: the plot felt contrived.


How does a SOTP writer create a contrived plot?

Hopefully we've all attended a workshop on deep POV. If you haven't, sign up for the next available slot with an author whose work you love. Deep POV brings out the heart of your characters and gives them reasons to do the things they do.

Okay. I thought I understood this.

Obviously not.

Back to my original point. You take variations of tried and true classes and workshops hoping someday the *aha* moment will burst forth and you'll get whatever everyone else seems to have gotten.

Last month I read a blog post by my friend Missy Tippens. Missy talked at length about ANOTHER craft book called The Story Within Guidebook. Caught my interest to the point where I visited Alicia Rasley's site and ordered a copy. Best decision I've made all year.

Alicia makes the concept of deep POV a perfectly painless concept. She takes you through the hows and whys of getting to know your character and anticipating their behavior. You learn to understand the character.

I know most writers have a copy of GMC: Goals, Motivation, Conflict book by Debra Dixon. Excellent book. Everything she says about dissecting The Wizard of Oz makes sense. Only problem, I had a difficult time applying the GMC to my own work. Is that an internal or external goal? If that's my goal, what is my motivation? My conflict has nothing to do with my characters goals or motivations.

Where are Munchkins when you need them??

Alicia doesn't give you the answers. She asks the questions that make you think about your book so you can answer them yourself. Clever idea, huh?

Not every method works for everyone. I'm so glad I finally found a method that works for me. Maybe now I won't be rewriting my drafts a ba-billion times and still coming up contrived : )

BTW, I have an open-ended invitation to submit my work to the above mentioned agent. By jove, this time I think I've got it : )

Blessings to all!



Donnell said...

Audra, I'm holding my breath! That's how certain I am that you are going to get THE CALL, and not let me pass out on the floor LOL. Quick question for this dimwit what do the initials SOTP mean?

Also, thanks for the references to Alicia Rasley. I did take Deb Dixon's workshop and found it amazing, but you're right, she points out the GMC and asks you to compare it to your work. I love that Ms. Rasley makes the writer work hard to determine his or hers. Great picture, and it's so nice to see you!

Audra Harders said...

You're funny, Donnell : )

SOTP - Seat Of The Pants=meaning *okay let's see where this idea goes* : )

Deb Dixon makes so much sense, I can see exactly what she's talking about in all the examples she cites. What I have a hard time doing is applying it to my own writing.

Must have something to do with that lack of organization thing I have going in my life : )

Both systems are excellent!

Nice to chat with you, too!!!

Debra E Marvin said...

Hi Audra,
I was planning on getting Alicia Rasley's guide for my "next" book so I could use it for my plotting from day one. I'm wondering now if I should test my WIP against it right now.

Contrived is a scary word. Isn't there another phrase that says that? Authorial something ... interference or ?? IOW the oh so convenient plot points that show up to annoy the reader.

I've gotta look back over the last few days and see what I missed on Five Scribes. Great blog.

Audra Harders said...

Hey Debra! Great to see you here!

Doesn't the accusation of a contrived anything just make your hair rise?? I had to research the whole concept before I thought I understood what she meant.

Stings though.

Read through Alicia Rasley's book while your working on revisions. I'm doing that now and seeing little tidbits of pointers to make my tweaks stronger.

Next book, I'm following the Alicia path and we'll see what I come up with : )

Leslie Ann said...

Hi Kiddo
Wow, very interesting. I've got to get a copy. I've known you long enough to know if you find a book helpful, it's got to be so!

You are a talented writer and one whose books will grace the shelves...soon.

xo always

Leslie Ann said...

Oh, and I meant to ask you if you can give us an example of why/how this book worked for you? Take an instance and elaborate?


Heidi Main said...

Audra - Let's start with CONGRATS on the open-ended invite on submissions :-) Also, thanks for the link to The Story Within Guidebook - sounds like exactly what I need! Thanks again, Heidi