Dramaquill's All Things Writing

October 5, 2008

Can you really make me feel for the villain?

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As I continue to work on my final revisions for my adult suspense novel, I vaguely remember an article I read in one of the many ezines to which I subscribe.  The article addressed the villain character in novels, plays, movies etc.

What does the writer have to do to make the villain more than just a horrible, frightening individual?

Well for one, this article stated that the reader had to be able to find something “human” about the villain.  We have to remember that no one, not even our worst villain, is 100% bad. 

So, that’s had me thinking a lot about Mel, my villain, this week.  Basically, Mel is a controlling, abusive, obsessive guy who has killed the women who tried to leave him.  My heroine, Eleanor, ends up in a relationship with Mel, but finds out before long that Mel’s idea of a relationship means she will have to surrender to him in every way or be punished.

After almost a year and a half of verbal, emotional and physical abuse, Eleanor leaves Mel and changes her identity so he can’t find her. 

Now, as a reader, I don’t think you’re too crazy about Mel right now, are you?

But everyone has a story.  Mel was left in a dumpster by his biological mother when he was just a few months old.  He was a sickly little fellow with extremely bad asthma and spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals.  He moved from one foster home to another until his eighteenth birthday, never being allowed to  establish himself in a loving, family environment. 

We still cringe at the things Mel has done, and continues to do, but at least we have some insight into “why” he behaves as he does. 

Mel has a vulnerable side and longs to be loved unconditionally.  Unfortunately, because he does not know how to elicit love from the people who come into his life, every relationship ends in disaster.

I still cringe when I read the pages I’ve written detailing Mel’s horrific actions.  I still feel my heartbeat pounding in my chest when I watch my heroine try to escape.  I don’t like Mel one bit!

But, I do feel for him at times.

How does your villain stack up as a character?  What will your readers think of your villain?

Here are some good articles/blogs about creating villains:

http://blog.worderella.com/2008/06/developing-villainous-characters-part-1/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU0711/S00197.htm

http://www.theromanceclub.com/writers/articles/article0042.htm

http://www.ehow.com/how_2222257_avoid-creating-weak-villain-creative.html

http://www.stellacameron.com/contrib/villains.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Credible-Villain-in-Fiction

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April 15, 2008

Can you have too many ideas?

I’m still working on my final (I can hope, can’t I?) revision of my adult suspense novel.  I feel that the writing is quite strong now and I’m confident that I’m continuing to eliminate the unnecessary bits. 

But revising can be tedious.  I’ve written and rewritten so much that I have to keep flipping back to make sure the new chapters are consistent with this version.  My critique group continues to be my most valuable resource as they catch anything that doesn’t click from what I’ve subbed to them, making my job a little bit easier than if I had to rely just on my own memory of this newest version.

So I decide to work on one of my other projects before I am smothered by my novel revision.  After all, sometimes all it takes is a break from the same characters to jump start a whole new take on my revision.

But, here’s the catch.  Are you like me?  I didn’t realize how many projects I’ve started, only to leave them to get back to the revision task.

Do I finish the last couple chapters of my Ya shapeshifter novel?  Or do I scrap it all in 3rd person because now, 1st person might be a better way to write it?

Do I tackle the themes list from a group of kids’ magazines where I’ve sold a few pieces and try to write and submit something new before they forget who I am?

Do I finish the 2nd half of that play I began writing three years ago?  I already know the answer to this one…nope!  It’s a pretty heavy subject and not something that would make a good diversion at this point.

How about the chicklit type YA novel that I actually think I could really get into?  It’s quirky and I can really relate to my main character. 

I could go on and list about ten other projects but I think you see where I’m going with this.  Just wading through everything I’ve got going tells me that I need to get back to the novel revision and stick it out and get it done.  I do have high hopes for this book and the only way it’s ever going to get out there is if I finish this revision.

So I ask all of you?  Can you have too many ideas?

Some people with for an extra day in the week.  I think I need an extra month in the year!  Of course wouldn’t that just give me another 30 days worth of ideas to generate?

Maybe blogging is the best diversion from this revision.  I think I’m ready to get back at it.  And hey, I’m on chapter 22 so I’ve made great progress.

Do you have too many ideas?

 

January 14, 2008

Paying attention to your characters

Every writer has their own methods of developing their stories.  For some, they plot and plan everything out on paper before tackling the writing.  For others, they write freely and worry about making it all fit together once they begin their rewrite.

For me, it’s as simple as listening to my characters.

What does my heroine fear most?  What does she want?  What is she willing to do to get it? 

Why is my villain acting and reacting as he does?  How is his life intertwined with my heroine?  What drives him?

I spent a lot of time developing the characters for my suspense novel.  I researched the type of crime I felt inclined to write about and I poured over information about victims of such crimes.  I spoke to counselors and the authorities.  I interviewed someone who’s life situation had similar circumstances to what I had planned for my heroine.

Then, I listened.  As I wrote each chapter, distinct voices emerged.  My heroine shared her innermost fears and desires with me and her story began to take shape in a whole new light.  My villain, who still scares me, took on a dimension of a human person, rather than a stereotypical “bad guy”.  I still really don’t like him, but I’m beginning to understand why he does some of the things he does. 

My characters have been instrumental in helping me create a much stronger manuscript in this final revision.  I feel like I could meet these people on the street and I would instantly know them.  I can see their worlds so visually clear inside my head.  I hear their voices as if we’ve already met.  They aren’t just characters inside my head – they are real.

So what are your characters trying to say to you?  Are you paying attention?

January 11, 2008

Feeling uneasy – my heroine speaks out

Filed under: Creative writing,mysteries,Novels,Writing — dramaquill @ 10:12 PM
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Michael and I haven’t spent any time together in weeks.  We’re both so busy with work right now, which is good for our careers, but it’s putting a real strain on our relationship.

I don’t like these odd phone calls I’ve been getting the last couple of days.  I know someone’s on the other end – breathing – but no one talks.  Michael thinks I’m being silly.  “Just hang up, honey.”  That’s his advice.

I used to love living out here on this quiet country road.  The fall colors are splendid right now and looking out of my office window used to inspire all sorts of creativity.  But the past few days, I haven’t been able to put two intelligent thoughts together. 

Michael’s probably right.  I’m just being silly.

I think I’ll unwind with a game of solitaire.  It’s after 9:00.  Michael should be home soon.

Oh no – the phone again! 

Eleanor

Something fun to try

Blogs are a great way for a writer, published or unpublished, to create a web presence.  Some are very pointed and specific while others run carefree. 

 I recently read somewhere (I know, as a writer I should have written down so I could cite it properly for all my readers) that some authors use blogs to allow their characters to speak out.

And I thought – HEY, what a cool idea!

When I first started this blog, I talked a lot about my adult suspense novel.  I’m still hot and heavy into the final (yeah, right) revision and I wondered if my heroine, and my villain, might have some things to get off their minds.

So, don’t be surprised if they start making an appearance here shortly.

December 4, 2007

Nano aftermath

So Nanowrimo’s officially over for another year.  I had so wanted to complete the 50,000 and was totally motivated to do so.  At the end of week three I got sick and was in bed for a couple of days.  Let’s call that Setback #1.

Three days later, my dog had some kind of breathing attack and I had to take him to the vet.  Days of testing and piles of money later, the news is devastating…rare form of cancer.  Doesn’t seem to be anthing else our vets can do here.  Definitely Setback #2.

Now, writing seems furthest from my mind and even if I wanted to, I can’t seem to pick back up into the story at the moment.  Setback #3.

So I stalled at almost 33,000 words.

But I have to look at Nanowrimo in the most positive of light:

***I wrote 33,000 words in one month! 

***I have a huge start to a new novel. 

***I’ve made some new, local writing friends.

November 26, 2007

What do you do when?

Drat!  As luck would have it, just when I was finding a real rhythm to surge ahead with my Nano novel, I got sick.  Having spent the past few days fighting a fever and eventually succumbing to much needed bed rest, I have missed three days of writing opportunity on my nano book.

I already knew the last week of November was going to be tough with a drama presentation to prepare for and some other writing projects, all with “end of November” deadlines.

It looks bleak that I’ll make the 50,000 now, but I’m not giving up.  Whatever happens, I’ve written a ton this month on a project I doubt would have ever gotten off the ground because something else always come up and gets in the way.

I’m inspired by those who managed the 50,000, whether for the first time or who continue to do so annually. 

I’m definitely doing nano next year.  In fact, I already have the novel picked out from my book of ideas and scribbles of inspiration that I keep on hand to jot down moments of creativity.

So next year I’ll be writing “Quick!  Pass the Chips.” 

But for now, cheer me on as I try to sprint ahead even a little more on my suspense novel, “Losing Charlotte.” 

I wish all the Nano participants great, long episodes of creativity this week and the stamina to write…write…write…

 Yay, Nanowrimo!

November 23, 2007

I may not finish but I’m giving it my all

Despite a couple of bumps in my Nanowrimo road, I’m back on track again and churning out a new section of my suspense novel.

At close to 30,000 words, I’m feeling pumped.  Has there ever been another month when I’ve written 30,000 words on the same project?  On multiple projects?  Until Nanowrimo, I never really thought about it but I suspect this is a record for my 3 week participation.

Will I finish the 50,000 goal?  

I hope to.

Will I be disappointed if I fall short?

Well, maybe a little bit.

But I can’t say enough how great the Nanowrimo PUSH feels.  And I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I would like to writing this book.  Imagine, if I can get to 30,000 words with an hour or two of writing time each day, what I could accomplish if I continue this disciplined focus on writing from now on.

I can’t wait to get back to revising my first suspense novel that’s getting ready to go out the door but now I have a new project to keep me busy once I’ve subbed it out.

So thank you Nanowrimo, for giving me the jumpstart to realize how many words I can get down on paper if I just believe I can do it.

Anybody finished yet?

Let’s hear from all those Nano hopefuls and those cruising through the final stretch.

November 19, 2007

You never know who might be watching

I just heard a fascinating story from an online writer friend who has a blog that I’d love to share with my readers.

There are a ton of blog spots online and blogs on everything from soup to nuts.  So do you ever wonder why you bother?  Do you ever questions whether or not anyone even cares to read what you write?

Well this might make you all get inspired to keep up with your blog and to remember that anyone, and I do mean anyone, could be reading…

An agent, in the same genre as my writer friend’s unpublished novel, contacted her with a request to read the manuscript – all based on reading her blog.

So remember as you post comments, entries and interact in blogdom, you never know who might be out there checking you out.

Anyone interested in a suspense novel?????

Hey, it was worth a shot.

November 9, 2007

Another way to get unstuck

Working on a full length novel can seem like a daunting project, especially when the creativity train stalls on the track mid point.  If you’re like me, it’s time to get away from the computer (or notebook, which I still prefer because when I write by hand my brain and my handwriting speed are usually about the same) and get some perspective.

Sometimes I walk away to get away from the story, the characters and the plot.  But avoidance has never been my favorite tactic when stuck on any task. 

Because I have a background in theatre and music, I have enjoyed performing in numerous plays and musicals and find that the most fun for me, even when singing a song, is asking myself “who is this character”?  What’s she like?  Why is she saying this?  How does she feel at the moment?

So I tried it with my Nanowrimo book and guess what?  Charlotte, my main character, had lots to say to me and through me.  Yesterday 3000 words poured out because I put myself in her shoes.  It wasn’t something I’d call fun, because Charlotte’s character faces challenges and events that are somewhat unnerving.  But I found my connection to her – the connection that made me want to go on.

In my suspense thriller novel that I’m revising, I had to figure out my villain.  My mentor, Marilyn Henderson http://www.mysterymentor.com/ said that my villain needed to be more nasty.

Now, because I’m not a stalker, I’m not crazy (at least I don’t think so) and I’m not a man, writing him was already presenting its share of challenges.  But back to my first way to get unstuck:  WHAT IF?

What if I was this person?  What would motivate me to act and what would the result be?  So, not one to shy away from a challenge, I jumped into his mind, body and soul with both feet.  I don’t know if I should be happy or worried telling you that he is now far scarier than ever before and a whole new, demented side of his personality has shown up. 

But shaking off the characters can be a difficult thing to do.  Sometimes my heroine gets inside my head and she won’t leave me alone until I address something in the book.  I’m a little better keeping my villain at bay until I’m ready for him, but once I get inside either of them, new plot twists and ideas seem to run rampant at times.

So even if you don’t have a theatrical background, try living in the shoes of one of your characters for 24 hours and see where it takes your writing.  It may surprise you.

November 7, 2007

I’m not making excuses but…

Okay, so it’s been 6 days of Nanowrimo and I’m supposed to have written approx. 6000 words by now.  I’ve done half of that.  So why did I sign up for this arduous task of creating an entire novel in a month if I wasn’t going to put nose to grindstone????

 Whatever you think of my explanation (or excuse), Nanowrimo has made me write more than I would have if I hadn’t joined. 

Today I worked for 3 hours on a totally new chapter of my adult suspense revision and guess what????  That was another couple thousand words, so really, I’m only 1000 words behind if you count what I’ve actually written.

But wait…

What about the zillion emails I’ve answered, the correspondence I’ve written for work and of course, my blog posts.  If you add it all up, then I’m right on schedule with my Nanowrimo word count.

Too bad the words are spread around and not all on my novel.

And yes…I’m still thinking of switching to the other book.

What would you do?????????????

October 13, 2007

Confusing myself with revisions

My suspense novel is really taking shape and this last revision, #5 to be exact, has really cut the fat from the manuscript as well as tightened up plot and POV issues.

Thank goodness for critique groups, though.  It seems I cut chapter 3 featuring Louisa, a housekeeper, from the final revision, only to mention her in chapter 15.  With an abundance of emails saying:  “Who’s Louisa?”, I quickly realized that revision #5 still needs a little bit of fine tuning.

But what did I learn from this?

After I’ve read the manuscript for the umpteenth time, perhaps it would be a good idea to go through it and look for inconsistences.  With all the deleting of certain scenes and the addition of certain others, it’s time to make sure that I’m not relying on my original draft version anymore.

Had I not sent this manuscript through my critique group, things like this would get through to potential editors and agents.  I don’t need to sabotoge my writing by making silly mistakes like this.

So how do I feel about revising?

I used to hate it, but now I love it.  When I re-read a revised chapter and see how much better it is, how can I not get excited!

Along with the revisions, I’ve been skulking out prospective publishers and agents for this project.  I’m anxious to start subbing it out so I’d better get back to checking for inconsistencies.

If you find revising tedious, keep your eye on the prize:  the contract and a copy of your book in your hands.

Tell me your revision stories.

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