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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, February 15, 2008

Q and A and Prize Day

You have all been very very good, so, as promised here is a photo of my talking Leonidas doll (excuse me, I mean Talking Leonidas Action Figure) He is 12 inches high and comes with an extra head, one without the helmet. He says things like, "Spartans, ready your breakfast and eat hearty. For tonight we dine in HELL."

Even better, because you have been good, one of you has been randomly selected to win Dianna Love's RITA winning Silhouette Intimate Moments, Worth Every Risk. And so you can read in bed, Dianna is also giving away a reading light.

The winner of Worth Every Risk and a reading light is........

Terry ODell

Terry, email me at with your address. Let me hear from you by next Friday, February 22, or I'll have to award the prize to someone else and I don't want to do that.

Next prize is Jill Monroe's blazing Blaze, Hitting the Mark. I'll choose that winner on Feb 29, Leap year day!

On to questions!

I missed one from last week. Eden Sharpe asked:

My question: I know GMC and all the other components involved in discovering these characteristics are supposed to help us to get to our character's core, but sometimes it feels that I'm "assigning" these when I should be uncovering them. How do you know when you've hit the authentic GMC? After several lectures and classes, this is still a big snag for me. (My manuscript is unfinished.)

Wow. Good question, Eden. I love the concepts of Debra Dixon's GMC and Hauge's Identity and Essence, but I'm not very good at applying them. I think it is for the reason you mention, it can become forced, something made to fit the concept, instead of the concept serving the character development.

I try to imagine people. I think about their past lives and about what they are like now. I try to think about what their vulnerabilities are. I try to imagine them as real people and then I see if the GMC or Identity and Essence concepts can fit, but my applications to the concepts always sound dumb to me. The important thing is for me to remember the people, not the concepts.

Some of my friends need to write several chapters until they get to know their characters. When they reach that point, they apply the concepts and see if they fit. If they don't, then my friends rethink things and tweak .

Noodlers and our noodlettes, lend a hand here. How do you keep your characters real instead of acting out "assigned" characteristics?

What other questions do you noodlettes have? What character concepts give you problems? Are there any leftover questions from this week's blogs?

Today is your day to ask!

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At 6:01 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Wowee! Thanks!
And, as for characters, I really have to get to know them, and they reveal themselves throughout the writing.

I was about halfway through Finding Sarah when Randy, the hero, told me he could play the piano. He walked into the spare bedroom after a really rough time, and there was a piano in there--and he sat down and played. I went back through the manuscript and there was only ONE word I had to change to keep things consistent.

I thought it would get 'easier', especially working on a series with recurring characters, but I don't learn enough about a secondary character until it's his/her turn in the spotlight.

I'm starting a new manuscript, and I know I'll trash the first few chapters (hey, it used to be more like 8 chapters) but they're our 'getting acquainted time.'

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

OMG. Rather than a removable helmet, he has an extra head? That is just so...300.

(can't stop shaking head in flabbergastedness)

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Hi, Terry. Hi, Esri,

I've been thinking about his GMC thing. You definitely have to get to know your characters....One thing, I guess. Don't be afraid to change things. To realize later that your GMC is different than you thought. Or you find it isn't working. Writing a story is a process and you don't have to get it right the first time around.

Esri, but of course Leonidas must have two heads. When he's playing with my Regency Barbie (a friend made her)he doesn't always want to wear his helmet.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

LOL, Diane! That is great. I want that doll! Two heads are always better than one. Ha! Your Leonidas doll is way aHEAD of the game. Okay, I'll stop! Great dialogue he has, too.

Diane, I'm with your always takes me 3 or 4 chapters before I don't have to force things on my h/h any longer and I can start to concentrate on the GMC and all the growing and learning that needs to be done.

Great week of blogs!

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Eden, that is a good question. Since it sounds like you are very much into character work, I would suggest that you start with that. Do a whole bunch of background work, write down what their place/job/family/education has been, how they know each other, etc. Don't stop with your protags, either. Do the same with a couple secondary characters as well. Don't make them more engaging than your protags. This is always a risk, because protags have to act rationally, whereas secondaries don't. For that reason, they can threaten to take over the show. To be safe, you can give your secondaries some characteristics that keep them from being totally sympathetic. Once you've done all that, the plot should evolve naturally from everyone's circumstances and history. Now...if you've done all that and a plot still seems like an imposition on your babies, then you have a problem with plotting. Actually, it's not a problem unless you want to publish. If you do, then try not to let perfectionism hinder you in your plot. Make a good effort to come up with something, and keep reminding yourself that you can change things. I usually get to page 100 and say, "OMG, this plot stinks!" But it doesn't actually stink. It just needs more drama, or characters, or complexity. This is all part of the process for most of us.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Diane: Yeah... You know the reason he has two heads is so little boys can send one flying and then make gurgling noises, right?

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Esri, great answer to Eden's questions. That's exactly how it is for me. Once I really have the h/h goals and motivation down, the "what comes next" comes easier, but I, too, usually get worried at about page 100 and then things just slow down a little until the end...the end...the last 50 pages usually are the easiest to write for me.

And you're probably right about the two heads for little boys. Actually, they lose one head the first day after their mom spends $20 bucks on the toy and then thankfully they have a second head to play with for the rest of the week! and then it goes in the garage and nobody ever sees the poor guy ever again.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Dianna Love Snell said...

Hi Eden -

That's a wonderful point to bring up. I think as we get into writing early on we tend to listen to workshops then immediately apply what we learn. If it was only that easy?

I've read several great suggestions here already about how to get to know your character better that will help you "uncover" these characteristics rather than assign them - and the word "assign" really states that well.

When I'm developing a new character, I like to find someone I know well enough to chat with (doesn't have to be a friend, but can be someone you've casually met before) who has at least one or two of the characteristics that I do know about my character. Then I find a way to strike up a conversation about "them," and most people will be happy to talk about where they grew up or why they got into X profession or what they think about X - things you want to know about your character.

This doesn't mean you'll get your character fully developed from talking to this person, but that their answers and comments might stimulate ideas for developing your character. You might interview a person in the same line of work as your character (or several in that line of work with different personalities) who will surprise you with something they say that causes the pieces to start falling into place.

I think too often we as writers might mentally lock ourselves away from the world while trying to create when it's really so much easier to go out and gather information from live subjects.

thanks for a great question.

Dianna :)

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Dianna Love Snell said...

Hi Terry -

Congrats on winning my book and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us on the blog.

I love how you found out your hero plays the piano. Those are fun revelations. :)


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Wow! Thank you everyone -- Diane, Terry, Esri, Theresa and Dianna -- for your great input.

I feel as if my characters may really just becoming into their own and that's sort of scary since I've been working on this manuscript for so long (little ones at home, so my writing time is spread out). Since I've written 8 chapters or more and thrown away half of them, maybe the fun, but hard get-to-know-'em stuff is just starting.

So I won't bail out now. Using your ideas, I'll keep learning about them and hopefully the latest version of my plot works better for their character development than earlier versions. If not, I can always change it...again ;)

Many thanks!

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Oooh. Do his black leather panties come off, too, and what's underneath?

I'm answering a question someone asked last week, and which I forgot to address on my post yesterday. Now I can't find the question, but I know it was about dialogue in historicals--how to create the balance between formality and accessibility. I think it's a case of not being able to please all the people all the time.

It's not true that Regency folks never used contractions--in informal situations, and in letters where space was precious, they did. (Just as it's not true that Regency gentlefolk never had sex. I believe they did.)

My advice is to strike a balance. Read Austen, Fanny Burney, letters (or biographies that contain letters) and get the feel of how people spoke. Honestly, if you're English, it's easier. If you have a 97-year-old English father, who was brought up to be a gentleman, it's even easier. English speech patterns tend to be more like southern speech patterns--they meander, they're indirect, and you might have to search for the meaning.

Beware using slang in a Regency-set that sounds Edwardian. A Regency gent would say "By God!" but later in the century, when things were more respectable, "By Gad!" You're on the cusp of things become much more polite and euphemistic.

TMI. Hope some of it helps.

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

I asked last week, Janet, and thank you very much!

Off to watch Spongebob the Movie with the kiddos...definitely a change of pace. :)

At 10:07 PM, Blogger doglady said...

Oooh! I am suffering from serious Leonidas ENVY!!! Trust Janet to ask about the man's underwear!

These are some great tips on characterization. I think I already said how two large Scottish deerhounds showed up as my hero's pets and confidants out of nowhere in chapter 20! I am still learning things about him and about my heroine as well. Thank God for revisions!

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

On the 'know thy character' topic. A friend and I were following up on some blog questions about erotica. For fun, I wrote a brief intro to a sex scene. Woman getting undressed in the bathroom, leaves the room for the bedroom "where he waits." My friend wrote the next bit from his POV and shot it back to me. I tried to write the next part and hit a brick wall. Now, I don't usually have trouble with sex scenes, and I couldn't figure out why this was so hard. I realized I didn't know who my woman character was, and until I stopped and figured her out (from the second installment, I knew she was older than the guy in the bed, but that was all) I couldn't write a decent sentence. And this was just for a game.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oooh. Do his black leather panties come off, too, and what's underneath?

No, Janet, they don't and I almost sent him back......but I'd drooled on him already and I figured it wouldn't be sanitary.

About historical dialogue, I wasn't lucky enough to have an English grandfather and I hadn't met you yet, Janet, so what I did when I was starting to write Regencies was to listen to audiobooks of all of Austen, Georgette Heyer, and anything I could find--even the Sharpe series--that I thought would immerse me in the speech patterns.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I'm so glad you popped back in. I was afraid we'd lost you.

Welcome to the club. We all still struggle to 'find' our characters and we all throw out chapters now and then. Try to stick with this book until you finish it. Finishing it will be an enormous achievement, but even more so, you will have learned so much about writing a book. And you'll know if you want to do it again!!

Go back and read our first call stories, back in Dec 2007, I think. We all have been writing a long time before selling (and a few of us are still waiting for The Call). The only way to fail for sure is to give up.


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