Friday, June 29, 2012

Creating Characters

*Favorite Things Friday will return next week. I intended to get this post up earlier in the week but life butted in instead. I thought it would be too long with the favorites.

I'm currently developing the main characters for my new WIP and having a blast. One element of this novel is to create a strong, trio of friends. I've been reading some great posts and chapters about how to develop memorable characters, and thinking about some of my favorite literary characters, particularly in children's literature.I thought I'd share a little about how I'm approaching these characters and how I'm shaping their personalities.

As I searched around the net for tips on this topic, I knew I didn't want to fill in a huge character trait sheet. Some authors love this method when they're starting out.. And I say, "If that's what inspires you, go for it!" Instead, I thought about what was important to me, what do I like to know about someone, and tried to come up with my own brief profile for my main characters and some secondary ones.

At first I just brainstormed and took notes, particularly after listening to music which I felt represented something about that character. The floodgates of personality and backstory open up when I listen to these songs. Then I try to organize my thoughts in each character's profile. I'm also asking myself questions about how I want to portray relationships between characters and taking notes on that. Below, are a couple of links to recent posts about developing characters which I've found helpful. And I've included the brief profile and some of the questions I've been using. I hope you find them helpful.

Excellent posts on character development:

Crafting Multi-Layered Characters @ Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing
Developing Characters with multiple posts on different topics relating to character @ Janice Hardy's blog, The Other Side of the Story.

Place in family:
Physical Description:
Personality Traits:
Pet Peeves/Frustrations:
What is s/he good at:
Not so good at:

Backstory Information:

How did they meet each other?
What has sealed their friendship with each other?
How do these friends relate to their parents/family? How does affect who they are and how they relate to each other?

Do you create your characters before you start writing or develop them as you go along? Do you use a profile or character sheet? What do you like to ask yourself (or your characters) as you create them?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Favorite Things Friday

As most of you know, I'm a messy blogger. Oh sure, the blog itself is neater than my bedroom - with a place  for posts, bio, books read, followers (Hi all!), and so on - but there's no rhyme or reason as to when or what I might post on a given day. I like it that way. So I thought I'd experiment with a little organization. Hopefully, I won't break out in hives. Fridays are going to be Favorite Things Friday. This will be an easier post for me to write and the favorites might be anything: books, songs, movies, television shows, moment of the week, latest discovery...whatever. Then I'll turn it over to you to share a favorite from one of the week's categories. Pretty simple, right?

Favorite Songs (not necessarily new, just recent faves of the week)
Little Talks by Of Monster and Men - my 8 year old and I love this song. I've been known to call her from  the car so she can listen at home and sing with me.
Whirring - The Joy Formidable
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me - The Smiths (an oldie but a goodie) There's nothing like a brooding Morrissey to get me in the mood to write a heavy, emotional scene.
Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes (discovered this older song on the no good horrible day that I describe below. It does relate to favorites - really - but I understand if you want to skip my rant)

an aside:
 If you heard wailling and teeth gnashing a couple of weeks ago, it's because my favorite radio station, WFNX, was sold and will at a later unknown date, be replaced by a different genre. The rumor is country music. This is THE station to listen to in the Boston area for great alternative/indie music, the REASON I started listening to The Smiths, The The, Talking Heads, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Silversun Pickups, The Shins...the ONLY station which not only plays alternative music long before the mainstream stations discover a song that could be a crossover hit, but they play other songs by those groups that you NEVER hear elsewhere (except if you have satelllite radio, which I don't) or you listen on the computer (I'm just not on it long enough). And... I'll stop hear and spare you my full rant. This a portion of the monologuing which my kids had to endure the day I learned I'd have to give up the radio station I've loved for twenty something years, the radio station that has provided the soundtrack to my life. Yeah, mom can get dramatic at times. They rolled their eyes too. No worries.

Favorite Book This Week
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I promise I'll stop mentioning this book, eventually... but not today. I know it's not everyone's bottle of Yahoo, but this novel really struck a chord with me. This is my second post on Perks (and really it's only a mini mention) so you know there's at least one more coming. You may recall I gushed about Laini Taylor for 3. I'll move on, I promise.

Favorite Blog Posts
THIS is why I love Kiersten White.

This concludes the first Favorite Things Friday. What do you think - regular feature or nix it? What are your current favorite songs books, and/or blog posts?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Reading: What I'm Looking Forward To, Part II

On the last day of school, my kids received their summer required reading lists. Thankfully, there's been little grumbling about them this year. My soon to be 8th grader has a couple of required, one to pick from a variety, and one of her own choice. My sophomore is pumped that she gets to read The Hunger Games as one of her required books.

Me? I look forward to making my own list since I have more time to spend reading. My perfect list is a mixture of current YA and adult fiction, at least one classic, and at least one reread that's been on my mind over the past few months. I'm also adding a new category called Vintage YA which I'll blog about soon. I may also throw in a writing craft book, a biography, something non-fiction.

So, without further ado here's my tentative, subject to change on a whim at any time, summer reading assignment:

I define current as anything published from about 5 years ago up until now (or soon to be released)

1. Endlessly by Kiersten White (to be released July 24th) - I can't wait to get my hands on this one. I loved Paranormalcy, loved Supernaturally even more, and am looking forward to how Kiersten wraps up Evie's story.
2. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - I've had this one reserved at the library for a while. It's due in any day now.
*claps hands together gleefully*
3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer - reading right now

These are novels that I've never read but feel I should at some point in my life. I'm considering the following:
The Great Gatsby - This one is at the top of my list. Have you seen the trailer for the movie? Very cool.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Miscellaneous: (biography, non-fiction, craft, etc.)
Writing the Breakout Novel  by Donald Maass (reading right now)

Vintage YA: 
A new category for me which may turn into a regular feature of my blog.

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I just finished this last week and feel the need to reread it already! Post on this novel coming soon.
2. Feed by M.T. Anderson (this would also fall under the reread category)
3. The Giver - Lois Lowry

What about you? Do you read more in the summer? Do you like to create a summer reading list? Any book you're dying for me to read? Do tell in the comments below.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What I'm Looking Forward To: Part I

I am officially on summer vacation which means I'm home until after Labor Day. I started writing a post of what I'm looking forward to this summer but quickly realized I should break it up into a few posts. There's just too much! I decided to leave out the personal stuff which would be boring to most and concentrate on writing and reading.

#1 - Most definitely, working on my WIP. As of now it only has a working title of After, and about two and half written pages, but I'm using a completely different method than my usual minimal outline and write by the seat of my pants.

Although I put my writing on hold during my busy late winter, early spring months, I never stopped reading. And I read some terrific books (see right sidebar for 2012 books read). The books that I absolutely loved had one thing in common: well developed characters. I'm making it my mission to try and do the same with my novel. And so I'm doing a lot, A LOT, of prep work before diving into the writing. I want my characters to come to life in my readers' brains. I want readers to feel like they really know my characters. Physical description is important yes, but ultimately I think we visualize our own versions of characters. What's more important, imho, is what makes a character tick: her background, her likes and dislikes, his quirks, his hopes and fears, her friends, his  talents and shortcomings, etc.

I'm not using character charts or questionaires at this point, though some authors swear by them. Instead I'm using a method which sort of presented itself to me. Music. I love music and it's always been important in my own life, especially while living through my teenage years and 20s. Lyrics, melodies, and tempos have carried me through the ups and downs of my life experiences. About nine months ago I was brainstorming  in my head while driving. Hey Jude by the Beatles came on the radio. Immediately, I thought "Jude," perfect for my female main character. The hopeful lyrics lead to me visualizing this girl's emotional journey, and I wrote out a rough sketch of her story. Since then, about a half dozen other songs have triggered a feel for some of my other characters. It's wild! I never in a million years thought that I'd plan a novel through the feelings and visualizations that I experience while listening to these songs, but the truth is, my characters have begun to take shape. And it's exciting!

Another method I plan to utilize this time is storyboarding. I read a fantastic post on storyboarding by Mary Carroll Moore who blogs at How to Plan, Write and Develop a Book.  Her video goes through the method step by step and I think my novel could really benefit by it.

Do you use music or create playlists to inspire you while writing? Have you used storyboarding to plot out  your novels? If not, what's your favorite method if you have one?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Searching for Arthur

I'm thrilled to feature Searching For Arthur, the debut young adult urban fantasy novel, self published by my dear friend, Donna Hosie. First, about the book and then an interview with Donna below:

Legend tells of King Arthur, mortally wounded at the hand of the traitorous Mordred in the final battle of Camlann. Before he was taken to the magical Vale of Avalon, Arthur declared that one day he would return, when the kingdom of Logres was once more in need of his leadership.

That day has now come. 

It is hard to make friends when you’re constantly on the move. Seventeen-year-old Natasha Roth’s father is a diplomat, and so her mother – who is paranoid about terrorists – has moved Natasha and her brother, Arthur, to their eighteenth house in seventeen years: Avalon Cottage, deep in the heart of a Welsh forest.

Yet the terrorists are closer than they realize.

While out running, Natasha falls into a hidden tomb and awakens the legendary knights of Camelot: young warriors who have been in an enchanted sleep for a thousand years. All have been waiting patiently for the return of Arthur from the mysterious land of Avalon.

And now the knights are awake, they intend to reclaim their king.

When Arthur goes missing, Natasha joins forces with his girlfriend, “Slurpy” Samantha, in order to look for him. Natasha believes Samantha has fewer brain cells than an amoeba; Samantha believes Natasha is a freak. Retracing Natasha’s original steps to the hidden tomb, they bicker their way into a Welsh mountain and beyond, to the realm of Logres where the Knights of the Round Table are rallying once more.

Natasha falls in love with Sir Bedivere, the most loyal of knights to Arthur. He may be in dire need of a 21st Century razor, but he still possesses a set of lime-green eyes that can melt the soul. Yet just as Natasha starts to find confidence in this mystical land, Samantha deserts her. People who play by the rules are of no use to “Slurpy”. Samantha will take her own path to Arthur, aided and abetted by the dark arts which she willingly absorbs from a hot young stranger called Mordred.

A race across magical yet deadly lands is on. Natasha battles dwarf-riders, dragons, and eventually “Slurpy” to reach Camelot, where Arthur is held captive by the barbarian Saxon, Balvidore.

Natasha’s woes become numerous. What will happen to her and Arthur when the knights realise the eighteen-year-old boy they thought was their king, is in fact a math student with appalling taste in girls? Can two people with a one thousand year age gap really have a relationship? And for the love of all things holy, how is a girl supposed to ride bareback in a pair of skinny jeans?

First things first, Donna. I'm so freaking proud of you, girl! Okay, now on to the questions.

1. You're a married mom with three children and a puppy, plus you work full do you juggle writing with the responsibilities of a very busy everyday life? I am ├╝ber organised. I have to be. My family comes first, but I am lucky that my children are all of an age where they are pretty self-sufficient. I really enjoy my job, (I am the Executive Assistant to a Government Director-General), and I work long hours. So my writing takes place in the early morning, and I am talking 5am, and I try to grab an hour in the evening as well. My husband doesn't even realise 5am exists! It can be done and I am very driven so I make it work. However I don't beat myself up if circumstances mean I have to miss a day of writing. It fits around me, not the other way around.

2. While writing Searching for Arthur, what part of the writing process did you find the most difficult? Oh other writers are going to hate me for this, but I don't find the writing process difficult. I've never had writer's block; I've never hit a mid-novel slump. I rarely write more than two pages a day, so I think about a particular scene, write it, and then save and close. I don't think about writing then until the next day when I am fresh. I enjoy editing because my view is you are always making the ms better. If there was one stressful aspect in the creative process of Searching for Arthur, I would say it was turning down representation. I really battled with everything you learn about "making it", but once the decision was made, it was a weight off my shoulders.

3. What makes you keep writing on the days that you feel like giving up? I never feel like giving up. I love it too much. And I have always had this self-belief that I could do this. There are a million things I can't do - I can't cook, I am hopeless at sport - but I can think of a good story and put in down on a page.

4. How long did you consider self publishing before you took the plunge? It was in the back of my mind for about 6 months. Then I spent a month seriously considering it and learning about the process before deciding to withdraw from the agency model. I published Searching for Arthur 5 months after that, so I certainly didn't rush into it. It isn't right for everyone, but I decided it was right for this series.

5. What advice would you give to those who are considering self publishing? Become informed and take your time. I see too many writers finish a book on the Monday and upload it by the Friday. This is your career so you cannot cut corners. I formatted no more than a chapter a day because I wanted it to be perfect. I would also recommend a professional cover designer. I have had so many wonderful comments about the cover of Searching for Arthur. It was done by Design for Writers and it was a truly collaborative experience. It is perfect. Taking control over every aspect of my release has been very empowering but I am all too aware of the responsibility. DO NOT RUSH INTO IT!

6. What authors have inspired you? J.K. Rowling has been a huge influence and I get pissed off when I see industry professionals say you should never mention her. Why the hell not?! She created a world that was fantastical and yet believable and, as a writer of urban fantasy, this is exactly what I want to emulate. I love Stephanie Perkins, Philip Pullman, Victoria Hislop, and Carlos Ruiz Zafon is my God! Too many to mention. Oh, and Tolkien, and Kate Morton, and...

7. Snack of choice?  Chocolate. Or cheese. I love cheese. My heaven is going to be made of cheese. Then I will eat it all and end up fat in Hell! Which will probably be made of asparagus which I hate!

8. What are you working on now? Now Searching for Arthur is published I am working on getting the sequel ready for release by the end of the year. I've spent over a year on it already and it is in the final editing stages. It will be called The Fire of Merlin and I really love it - (the character of Slurpy Sammy has a really fun/evil story arc in this one.) I also have an entirely different series ready to roll; the first book is called The Devil's Intern. It is about four time-travelling devils and that is currently going through the revise and resubmit process with five literary agents. I haven't decided 100% what I am going to do with that one in terms of publishing. Wait and see I guess!

And now for the part where I blush and get all squirmy and embarrassed. But because she's my friend and it's her moment to shine, I'll give her free reign to share some additional comments. 

I would just like to be indulgent for a second and grab this moment to thank Suzie again - she is also in the credits of Searching for Arthur but sometimes things need to be repeated! Suzie has been my dear friend for a number of years now and every writer needs a Suzie! She has supported me through tough times and championed me through great times. She gave me her time, which often proves to be the most generous gift of all.

Thank you so much, Donna. It goes both ways, my friend. I wish you much success!

You can visit Donna Hosie at her blog, Musings of A Penniless Writer and purchase her e-book, Searching for Arthur through Amazon.