Posts tagged ‘writeaway’

April 14th, 2010

Getting to Know: Mark + Creating Characters

by Madeleine Rex

I immensely enjoyed my “Getting to Know: Allison” post, so I’ve interview my male MC (Mark) as well. I had to omit certain facts and act as though I were interviewing him before the end of the book for various reasons, but what you find below is all him.

  • How old are you? 19
  • If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you? Probably my grandfather’s journal.
  • Describe your hands. They’re large. I have long fingers.
  • Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it? Currently, I don’t have any of those things. If I did, there would probably be a few books on top of the dresser and bottles scattered about the room. Things I was trying to hide would be in my nightstand and bathroom cabinets.
  • What is your favorite food? Homemade mac & cheese. I haven’t had it for at least four years.
  • Describe your economic/political status. Economically, I’m doing pretty poorly. I don’t have a job because only a dim-witted person would hire me due to certain circumstances. I’ve been too distracted to focus an ounce of my attention on politics.
  • Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars. I don’t have any scars, but I have a huge mole on my nose and a Matrix tattoo on my arm.
  • What is the last book you read? What did you think of it? Great Expectations by Dickens. I enjoyed it, though the beginning was slow.
  • Do you have an embarrassing habit? Drinking… But I guess that’s more shameful than embarrassing.
  • Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure. The memory of a stranger’s arm around my mother’s shoulder.
  • What is a dream (in sleep) you often have? Allison bringing me Starbucks for breakfast and us eating together, talking about the recent developments. I have it over and over.
  • Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? Joining the Navy.
  • How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.) I sleep on hardwood floors, nearly choking on the humidity in the air.
  • What is the last thing you wrote? I can’t remember.
  • What grosses you out?  Alcohol, ironically.
  • Who is the person you like the least? Why? It should be my brother, but it’s not. I’d have to go with the irritating librarian at the Junior High.
  • What is something you feel guilty about?  Myriad things. Innumerable things. I can’t count.
  • Describe what you do when you look in a mirror. I try to wash my face with the paper towels and mucky water that dribbles from the rusty faucet. Or simply wipe grease from my face.
  • Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot. If I’m alone, I’m sitting on the cap of a hill, leaning against a bristly bush that feels soft, now, because it’s so familiar. When I have Allison’s company, it’s sitting across from her, on the other side of the train tracks.
  • Tell me about a very treasured item. My grandfather’s war journal. He fought in Vietnam.
  • Do you have a nervous tic or habit? I haven’t noticed one, but Allison or Sean might have.
  • Tell me about your siblings…if you have them. I have a sister named Amy. She lives in California with her family, and I haven’t seen her for years. Since my parents divorced, I suppose. My older brother, Sean, he… I’m sorry, but I’d rather not delve into Sean. I’ve realized that I don’t understand him.
  • What is your favorite sound? The sound the shed door makes when there’s a breeze as it shivers in its door frame. It speaks of home.
  • What is your favorite smell? Soap.

Really, folks, this is a blast. I recommend taking a whack at interviewing your characters in such a way, and I’d certainly love to read those interviews if you chose to post them.

I don’t create my characters through this process, though (obviously, because I’m done with the first draft). The interviewing is simply 1) fun and 2) helpful in getting to know your characters better. Not creating them. I create my characters through Character Analyses. I wrote analyses for almost every character that had a name and appeared in the book. Some of them didn’t even make it in, yet they’re real to me. I discovered the Character Analyses system through Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Actually, I used every bit of the plotting process that George wrote about. I read the book last year, just after having dropped Forbidden. I knew that I was in dire need of a substantial plotting process and was thrilled to find that George and I were incredibly similar. Her process was percisely what I needed, though the next time around, I’m switching things up a bit.

So, what’s your process for creating characters? Or plotting in general? Is it similar to one you read about or that of a friend?

October 6th, 2009

New Writing Curriculum

by Madeleine Rex


 Typically, you would think, based on the title of this post, that I was taking on some crazy writing class, and, I suppose I am, but not under the circumstances you would assume. Yesterday, I glued my bum to the seat of my pink spinning chair and virtually commanded myself to write. This is my theory: If I sit down, don’t allow myself to stand up, begin writing, and let my hands take control of the reigns, I will inevitably write something.

I don’t intend to write innumerable short stories or embark on the adventure of writing a persuasive piece, I intend to write something meaningful, and more importantly, complete. I have yet to complete anything more than 35,000 words, and I feel as though I am incomplete without the ability to proudly boast, “I have written something as opposed to nothing.” I have no doubt that nestled comfortably in the recesses of the literary section of my mind (which, I’m glad to say, must be considerably larger than most other portions of my brain) is the topic for which I have been searching, and that cuddled beside it lies the craft through which I can successfully write. When I sit down to write, I can feel Topic lurching to life, and Craft slowly peeping from heavily-lidded eyes. When the feeling that I am writing for a purpose is aroused, I feel as though I could scribble incessantly (a.k.a. type incessantly), jotting down every undiscovered thought in my mind with the words I love to employ.

I read Elizabeth George’s Write Away, an instructional book on writing, last school year, and found its teachings invaluable and in its author, a kindred spirit (as my idol, Anne Shirley, would say). George and I had similar weaknesses, writing tendencies, and beliefs. This aided in my struggle to comprehend all the information I was shoving in my eyeballs. She hooked me on one of her first lines, and I immediately acknowledged the fact that I had fallen head-over-heels for a non-fiction book (needless to say, I was quite ashamed of myself). Here’s the quote:

…where I want to begin then, in laying the for my exploration of craft: with character.

She goes on to speak on how indispensable sufficiently alive characters are to story’s well-being. I agree with all she said. Characters are the livelihood of a book, whether fiction or nonfiction. Their personalities and unique qualities give the book life, color, and the unpredictability crucial to the plot. I’ve learned this both from reading George’s book and through reading books in general. I read books, I watch television, and, frankly, I live life for the characters they encompass. A drab, nearly uneventful storyline can be enlivened by the thoughts of any individual character. In my story, Impediments, I wrote about nearly nothing. Where’s the excitement in the drawing of a drawbridge? Where’s the thrill? The story? Nowhere. Those things are absent from the storyline, yet it’s the character’s mulling that consumes the story, and, consequently, we have added vibrant something to colorless nothing.

I went down a path in writing this post that I hadn’t intended. I merely got on here to let you know my plan. Give me a moment to gather my flock of meandering thoughts…

Oh, yes, bum glue. It’s power is undeniable. I coveted nearly all of Elizabeth George’s writing process, and bum glue is indubitably the most valuable thing I have stolen. She quotes her “Journal of a Novel” at the beginning of her chapter, “The Value of Bum Glue”:

This is the moment when faith is called for. Faith in the creative spirit within me, which is part of what I’ve been given by God; faith in the process; faith my intelligence and my imagination. If I have managed to imagine these characters and this situation into being, doesn’t it follow that I should be able to imagine my way through the end of the book? It seems so. Thus… I suit up and show up. I sit down at the computer and I do the work, moving it forward a sentence at a time, which is ultimately the one way there is to write a book.

There is more truth in those words than you would originally think. I have tried her theories and found they fit me like a glove. I must honestly say that some may not get what I have from her book. I understand that the fact that she and I are very similar is crucial to my understanding and acceptance of her teachings of the craft of writing. All the same, I think bum glue, when applied to any individual, would be extremely helpful. Here is my vow to myself:

I will write for two hours, four days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays), until I am finished with the craft of my writing and may move on with the beloved art. Only under unexpected circumstances may I alter this determined vow. I hope to finish with my craft by the end of the 2009/2010 school year, and to be able to spend a contented and blissful summer with words and metaphors and semicolons.

I ardently recommend Elizabeth George’s Write Away. I will write a review for it in the future after a rereading, for now, my praise of it here will have to suffice.

I feel that telling all of you my promise to myself is nearly synonymous with promising you, and a promise to another is much more difficult to break than a promise told to one’s self, which is unseen and can only be upheld by you and your conscience. It’s far too easy to deceive yourself, unfortunately. Wish me luck on my hefty writing endeavour. I have high hopes it will all amount to something, someday, and in some form.