Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reading: Many Genres, One Craft (Part 2)


Sharon Mignerey’s article “Character and Dialogue”: I need to spend some one-on-one time with Rhea

Rhea is the name of my protagonist in the book I’m writing, entitled The Aborted, and after reading Sharon’s article, I realized that I had a lot of catching up to do with her in order to make her work as a main character.  Mignerey writes, “The major character of the story,  we’re told, must be empathetic- that I, to be recognizable enough that we might think as he thinks, act as he acts, if we were in his shoes” (64). She then goes on to talk about the Milieu  of the character, which really got me thinking… who is Rhea Harmon? Does she like where she’s at in life or can she not wait to get out of where she’s at? What’s her background story? Does she get along with her parents or have any siblings? What’s her financial situation? Is she a wallflower or a social lite? Those are just some of the questions that I asked myself after reading the article, and I’ll tell you what – I revised the beginning of my story three times already, and it has progressively gotten better each time because of what I learned about the setting influencing the character.

Randall Silvis’s article “Tough Love: Make Your Protagonist Suffer” : I’m an evil little SOB.

In my sophomore year as an undergraduate, Dr. Michael Arnzen told me something that I’ll never forget – only conflict is interesting. No one wants to hear about good things happening to your character while he continues to live happily ever after! Heck no, they want to see him suffer and bleed a little in order to get what he wants, and in Silvis’s article, that is exactly what he reiterates.  He writes, “If you want the reader to love your protagonist as much as you do, place her at risk, whether physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof” (71). That there, my friends,  is my adopted mantra for writing horror – put em’ through hell. Needless to say, I’ll be printing out this quote, and putting it above my desk because everyone… deep down inside… wants to see a little bloodshed in their stories.

Barbara J. Miller’s article “Empowering Female Characters”:  Burn your bras folks – Rhea’s kick ass and will stop at nothing until she feels like she gets what she deserves

This article hit the spot for me since I’m dealing with a very strong female character in my manuscript, while at the same time her mental competency is being disputed throughout the entire piece. I was really curious how I was going to make her appear strong while others worried that she was too weak, and then I read this- “Even when the character starts unempowered you must give you female lead at least one quality that will help her succeed, at least one this she is good at” (79).  That’s when it hit me. As long as Rhea is determined enough to do what she thinks needs to be done...then she’ll come off as strong no matter what her position is in the plotline. Miller also talks above giving her a flaw (which she has plenty of, trust me!) and then showing her fail because of it. This will show how she deals with other people, as well as giving readers a glimpse into how she deals with defeat (which is KEY in my story).

KJ Howe’s article “Give Your Reader Whiplash: Pacing in Fiction”:

This article helped me shape my beginning into a delightfully creepy scene that I’ve grown very proud of…when at first it did nothing but give me a headache. I really wanted to do a kick start, in your face, can’t-put-down-the-book-already introduction, and I had to face that what I first had…was just crap. But hey, I gave myself permission to write a really shitty first draft just as long as something got down on the paper… but then I read this, and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Howe talked about giving that extra UMPH through harsh words (staccato rhythm), sentence fragments, dialogue, and tunnel vision and when I applied that to Rhea’s opening scene, the words just started to flow, and the best part of it was that Howe also talked about how to slow it down, which I applied directly after this scene so that the transition between chapters was smooth, yet not forced.  The main thing that I learned from this was that baby steps are good. Sometimes you need to play and make mistakes before you really know what you need to do and how you need to do it.

Next time I’ll be picking up with Ron Edison’s article, “Put a Little Love in Your Life: The Perks and Perils of Romantic Subplots”  which is good considering that Rhea might be running into a problem soon where she was to deal with the perils of a slighted romance.

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