Saturday, January 21, 2012

Naming Characters

I feel like one of the aspects of writing that is most challenging for me is naming characters. Sound simple, right?

Wrong. A name seem to define the character. It dictates how that character behaves, acts, reacts, talks, thinks, and feels. Shakespeare was clearly trying to be ironic or cheeky or something when he said the whole "what's in a name?" thing.

I've been working on character sketches for The Hostage Heart, my WIP, for a few months now. I finally finished the heroine's, and now I'm working on the hero's. I know, I know...I should've had these sketches finished months ago. But doing anything with 5-month-old twin boys around is difficult. As it turns out, character sketches are kind of difficult when you have no idea what to name your characters.

I think my hero has had about 5 different names through various versions of this story. My heroine is on name two. Important secondary characters have all gone through at least a few name changes. I finally have a name for my heroine that fits her just right, but nothing seems quite right for the hero. I just can't find a fit. And until I find a fit, I feel lie I can't move forward with the plot.

I'm doing as much of the character sketch as I can without the name. I'm hoping, if I really solidify his personality in my mind, the name will just come to me.

Here's to hoping.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Plot Problem Solved

You know when you've been stewing for days--nay, weeks, months!--over a particular problem? And you have racked your brain, and you just simply cannot figure out how to get around this plot problem, but you can't move forward o the project until it's solved?

Totally hate that. But when you're talking to yourself in the shower, and suddenly you solve that plot problem? Priceless.

To Outline, or Not to Outline?

I have always been a hyper-organized person. At times, I have been accused of being OCD. I cannot function in a messy space, and clutter drives me bonkers. I like things perpendicular, alphabetized, and filed in chronological order.

So it's really ironic that I've never in my life outlined a manuscript.

Last May I went to the LDStoryMakers conference, and was totally sold on the benefits of outlining. I have started and never finished many a novel in the past because 100 pages in I realized I have some insurmountable plot problem that I could've avoided if I just outlined the darn novel.

I have a novel that I'm currently working on. I've been working on the darn thing off and on since about the 8th grade (so that's, what, 8 or 9 years now?). I have various drafts of the novel, all focusing on very different ideas and ending at around page 100. But this time, things are going to be different.

For the past month or two I have been outlining the novel. I have been working on character sketches and subplots and setting. I am determined that this time around, things are going to be different. And I will not start penning The Hostage Heart until I am sure just exactly what point A is, what point B is, and how I'm going to get from A to B.

Maybe I will try out outlining and find I completely hate it. Maybe it will stifle my creative energy and make me loathe working on the manuscript. But maybe, just maybe, I will absolutely love it, and finally be able to finish this manuscript after 9 years of trying.

New Year's Resolutions, Writing Style

I have been writing novel-length manuscripts since I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. My first novel I creatively titled "Stephanie's story." It was about It was a cheesy romance-turned-conversion story that highlighted all my greatest hopes in dreams. In the end, the love interest couple became insanely wealthy and had 14 kids. (I was an only child at the time and insanely jealous of large families.) It was an admirable attempt for a 9 year old.

Over the next 6 or 7 years my attempts grew better and better, and then stopped entirely as my education overtook my life. After graduation, infertility issues consumed my every thought and writing was just too hard. I also felt as though I was creatively dead, and that becoming a college graduate at age 20 had come at the cost of my ability to create stories.

While I was pregnant with my twin boys, I was so nauseous and miserable I couldn't even read, much less write. And during the first few months of their life, I was elbow-deep in dirty diapers and barely able to keep up with the demands of nursing two babies. But slowly, I started to feel something I hadn't really felt in a long time--a desire to write. It was as though becoming a mom jump-started my brain, and for the first time in years I started feeling creative again.

I have felt like a writer for a long time. But now that I am a mom, I feel as though I owe it my children to chase after my dreams and show them that you can achieve anything you want to if you try hard enough.

My boys are 4 months old now, and being their mom is the best thing to ever happen to me. I am their primary care giver, and the only one who can feed them (and they are still nursing every 3 hours like clockwork). Some days I barely have time to eat, let alone write, and most days it's still a miracle if I'm showered and dressed by noon. My house is a disaster and every time I sit down to do something, one of my boys starts crying. But here is my resolution for this year: to write for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. It sounds pretty simple, but there are days when it seems entirely unachievable.

But I don't care. I am going to write this year, and start feeling like a writer again. I've resolved to do this in the past, but this year I've got a plan, and I'm going to follow through. I purposefully made my goal simple so that maybe--just maybe--I can achieve it.

I am making no promises to myself on word count, page numbers, or quality of my writing. It's enough for now to just write. So I will write 3 times a week, and I am willing to sacrifice almost anything (excluding my children's and husband's needs) to do it. If my house is a little big messy, oh well. If I don't always manage to put on makeup, who cares? In 10 years I won't remember those things. But I will remember following my dreams. And hopefully so will my family.