Tag Archives: Characters

Writing to a Deadline Part 4: “I hate this stinking outline”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

ARGHHHHHH I hate this stinking outline thing!

No!  I am not going to give up.  I have an idea, but I just want to start writing dern it!  I know where I am going.  The outline is in my head.  Just let me GO!

But it’s already in my head.

Don’t you just hate it when you argue with yourself?

My problem is I have precious little time to write.  Half an hour during the day while I’m at lunch.  That’s it.  I just can’t “get into a character’s head” at home (Dog, husband, three kids… you get the idea.)

Writing down this outline when I could be writing the story makes me want to throw things!

In my writer’s group last night we went off-topic, and someone mentioned that after they outlined, the story flew out of their fingers because they knew exactly where every scene was going.  They are probably right.  There is a “bridge” that I need and I am not sure how my character will get there. That is usually the fun part for me… finding out.  The problem is I don’t have the luxury of the time to figure that out while I am writing a scene that might end up getting deleted.  Deadline, remember?

What fun is that?

Erggghhhhhh!

Going back to the outline, now.  I’ll let you know how I do.

Lesson Twenty-Five from a Manuscript Red Line: Bullying for Bully’s sake

“Having a bully for the sake of having a bully is a contrived way of injecting conflict.”

Well, I don’t think I can say it any better than the publisher’s quote above.

There was a bully in the Gold Mine Manuscript that really had no concrete tie to the main plotline.  His only reason for being in the story was to have a bully in the Main Character’s “normal” life.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Knowing a little about the plotline after “book one” I do know that the “bully” would have a little more of a role, but overall, he was never really integral to the plot.  The author has even mentioned that although she was sad about it, the removal of this character was actually fairly easy.

Why?  Because nothing he did was deeply tied into the main plot.  When he was gone, the main plot was still solid, and he wasn’t even missed.  In fact, after reading a partial re-write a month or so ago… I have to admit that the story is even tighter without him.

Take a look at each character in your novel and ask yourself.  “How does this character drive the plot forward?”

If you have to make excuses for why the character is there, it is time to re-think them.

Yes, I know this is hard.  I have three in my own story, but I need them for later novels, and I don’t want them to just magically appear.

1. Tome, is the main character’s roommate, but a stand-by and watch character.

2. Kilet is integral to a few scenes but is replaceable.

3. Brandon  is only in one scene that does nothing to draw the main story forward (although it does draw a side-plot forward.  He will make another one-scene appearance in book two, and then he is a very important character in books three and four.)

I did cut down Kilet to a very brief background role by replacing his “lines” with a more major character, but the other two characters are still there.

I know, I know.  Yes, I know what you are thinking…  I am just admitting the mistakes that I KNOW I am making.  The Brandon scene is tied into Matt cutting his hair, and if you’ve been reading for a while, you know how I feel about that scene.  That is why Brandon is still there.

Yeah, I struggle with this stuff, too.

Lesson Fourteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 2

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also look under “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Lesson Thirteen talked about making sure we only see what the Point of View character can see.  We also have to worry about accidentally getting into the heads of other characters as we describe what the POV character is seeing.

It seems to happen most for me when I describe what another character in the scene is doing.

“Mike studied the sign on the wall.”

Is Mike the POV character? No?  Then how does the POV character know that he is studying it? He may just be looking in that direction but thinking of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Right?

Hold up your right hand and say:  forever more I will call this…

The publisher red-lined something very similar to this, and said that you need to show what the characters are doing by showing what the POV character sees them doing.  You cannot get into their heads, or assume what they are doing.

You might be able to fix something like this with “Mike stood in front of the sign on the wall, and scratched his head.”  This would work especially well if there was a little dialog afterwards that made it obvious he looked at it.  REMEMBER NOT TO SAY HE LOOKS AT IT.  (See my earlier post on “Write without Looking”)

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Ten from a Manuscript Red Line: Girls Rule and Boys Drool

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

Let me start out by stating… if your novel has a female protagonist… I HATE YOU.

Well, not really, but I’m jealous.  You don’t have to worry about a side-kick, because your Girl-Power is already there.  UGH!  This is annoying.

My BP and I actually had this conversation months ago.  We talked about how annoying it is that publishers all seem to want strong female characters only.  Well, at the same time, they are complaining that boys don’t read.  Go figure.

Both my BP and I have male MCs (main characters).  My BP at least already had a female side kick, but they actually asked her to beef her up and make her one of the main voice characters.  She’s working now on making her a more dynamic character.  I guess this is a good thing.  I like her.  She’s a tough cookie, but do we always have to have a girl?

Now, I am a girl, and I happen to like to read books about boys.  Boys tend to be stronger, and I don’t have to worry about annoying sappy emotional crap most of the time.  I’m wondering if more boys actually would read if there was a wider variety of decent novels out there that didn’t force-feed them GIRLS just so the novels would be marketable to a female audience as well.  Maybe publishers are shooting themselves in the foot by not letting girl-free novels into the shelves?  I guess we will never know.

Yeah, I have to admit that Meagan has gotten more and more page-time in my novel, but I’m trying hard not to let her take over.  I’m trying to have her be there, with her own ominous annoying girly agenda, without spoiling the overall plot line.  Meagan is a princess and is trying to find a loophole that will let her marry Magellan, a commoner.  This actually works in nicely, because it makes the villain (her brother) more and more angry and homicidal every time he sees them together.

Hopefully I don’t have to make her too much more integral than she already is.  I want to be published, but I want the story to be intact when I’m done as well.  The story is definitely about a confused boy with no memory that has to save the galaxy… It’s not a love story.

Anyway… the point of this all is that publishers are still looking for a strong female presence in works that they are supporting.  They simply don’t believe there is enough of a male market of readers out there to support a strictly male protagonist.  They said they realized that a writer should not focus on writing to the market only, but it is something that publishers must consider.

Ugh.

Lesson Two from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Do we like your main character yet?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

I wasn’t going to write about this, but someone told me once they didn’t particularly like Magellan, and I tried to make him a little more endearing right up front. If I had a bad Main Character (MC) intro, and my BP (Beta Partner) did too, then some of you may have done it, also. So, yes, I am going to blog about it, even if it seems like a “Duh” thing to talk about.

On page three, the publisher said that the Main Character is portrayed as spoiled and we’re not led to feel any compassion for him. Now, in the case of the manuscript in question, this was partly done on purpose. We aren’t supposed to completely love this character. It’s part of his growing experience. I understood that once my BP explained it to me after I told her I didn’t particularly like him when I read the first chapter.

Think that over. I UNDERSTOOD THAT ONCE SHE EXPLAINED THAT TO ME.
You are not going to have the chance to “explain” to the agent you are querying, or the publisher you are submitting to, or to your reader… why your main character is the way they are. Even if they are completely despicable, there needs to be something about them that makes you drawn to them to keep them reading on. Either that, or something has to happen in the plot, and QUICK, that grabs their attention and distracts them. (That’s my two-cents… not sure an agent or a publisher would agree on the plot hiding what they would consider character flaws)

So, go back and look at those all-important first few pages, and make sure that your character is lovable to someone other than you.

Not to beat a dead horse (I will be talking about cliches shortly by the way) but GET SOME BETA READERS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW. You might be too close to your story to realize that your MC isn’t likable.

Amendment:  Just read a great blog  from CB Wentworth  about an author thinking up a character and falling in love with him.   I think we all fall in love with our characters in one way or another.  We just need to make sure our readers feel that love, too.  (I’m not saying Noah isn’t likable, by the way!  I’ve never met CB’s work.)

http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/one-photograph-changed-everything/