Write Despite

The write-20-minutes-a-day-for-365-days-come-hell-or-high-water challenge

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Cats and Characters

I’m reading two books on writing right now, both of which were recommended to me by other writers, and both of which are technically geared toward…movies? Well, acting and scripts anyway.

They are:

Getting into CharacterGetting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors, by Brandilyn Collins

and


Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
by Blake Snyder

The first one was suggested by one of the comments here on Write Despite (thank you, anonymous tipster), and it actually gave me a real breakthrough. Of course I realized all along, while working on my novel, that I need to know my character’s motivation. As Vonnegut said: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” In my book, my character didn’t seem to want much. She wants to be happy. And kind of to be left alone. And sometimes water. Hey, just like me.

But that’s of course not enough to draw a reader in or sustain them through 300 pages. Getting into Character’s chapter on “Coloring Passsions” broke down the process into manageable bites—a character’s conscious motivation, subconscious motivation, etc. so I was able to see that what my character really wants is to figure out why she is the way she is. What happened in her life that brought her to this point? Luckily, she’s returning home to her family and now, knowing this is her motivation, I should be able to open up whole areas of discovery as she digs and prods and questions her past. Best of all, she should no longer passive. Stronger characters make stronger books.

Save the catSave the Cat!, is written by a true Hollywood insider, and this guy has lots of energy. He loves exclamation points! (See title.) And chapters like “Give Me the Same Thing, Only Different!” and “Let’s Beat it Out!” and he’s heavy into pitches and loglines. Know what a logline is? It’s one sentence—ONE—that sums up a whole movie. See if you can guess these famous ones:

“Adventuring archaeologist races about the globe to prevent Nazis from turning the greatest archeological relic of all time into a weapon of world conquest.”

Too easy, right? How about this one?

“When she falls in love with a sweet, but WASPy guy, Toula struggles to get her family to accept her fiancée, while she comes to terms with her own heritage.”

And this?

“A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend.”

Snyder says if you have no logline, you have no script. Or in my case, no book. After some tinkering, I did come up with a logline for my novel and I think it suits it. And forcing myself to do so made me zoom in on the two or three BIG ideas of the book, which in turn made me think about whether those 300 pages that come after it can, or should, live up to it. Pretty good for one sentence.

If you’re looking for some guidance, I recommend both. If you have your own faves, tell us! What writing books do you turn to? Which ones have been duds?

–Cathy

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Journalist Jane Dee: WW I Veteran’s Heroic Story Resonates Today

Struggling with her own grief, Connecticut journalist Jane Dee found a sense of healing and connection as she wrote about a young solider from New Haven, who served valiantly in World War I and paid a dear price. Check out Jane’s piece here:

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-nhl-soldiers-story-20131111,0,2195034.story

Please contact Jane, if you have–or know about–a veteran’s story to share. And say thanks to any veteran you come across this week, or whenever the spirit moves you. These folks give so much and ask so little in return.

Please welcome Jane Dee to Write Despite.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 9.36.02 AM

My father was a veteran and an Irish lad, as was Timothy Ahearn, the subject of A Soldier’s Story in New Haven Living’s November magazine. A slightly shorter version of the story appeared in the Hartford Courant and on courant.com on Veterans Day.

My father and Timothy also shared the middle name Francis. I found these similarities to be meaningful when I stumbled upon a picture of Timothy’s memorial shortly after my father died this past March. Timothy’s life-like statue stopped me in my tracks and his story soon became a mystery for me to solve, as I tried to piece together how he had died. Immersing myself in his story felt like writing about my father by proxy, and was a way for me to honor my father’s war service. It also put my mind elsewhere, which helped me to cope with my grief, as I had lost my mother to breast cancer 22 months before my father died.

Writing this story took a lot of detective work, as Timothy’s story had never been written before. His descendants had moved away from the area, and the veterans he fought with had died years ago. Although his story was profoundly meaningful to the veterans who raised the memorial to him, his story had been lost to time.

Timothy has been gone a long time, but his story is a story about veterans, for whom I have a much deeper appreciation. In many ways we are becoming a nation of veterans, and Timothy’s story speaks to the struggles veterans still encounter today.

I spent six months researching A Soldier’s Story at the New Haven Public Library, including its local history room, the Connecticut State Library, and the New Haven Museum. I also spoke to veterans and visited the West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center, which has a wonderful collection of Yankee Division memorabilia. I obtained copies of Ahearn’s service record from the Connecticut National Guard and corresponded with two members of his family who were very generous with their time and memories. I also read many books on the “Great War.” Two histories written just after the war ended were particularly helpful.

I would be very happy to hear from any of Ahearn’s descendants. I am also very interested in telling other veteran’s stories. I would welcome your suggestions and comments and can be reached at janedee04@gmail.com.

A Matter of Perspective

So we’ve all got different tastes in fiction, but I want to share a new novel that I’ve just finished, The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. So many aspects of this story are moving, but I was particularly impressed with how skillfully and effectively Strout handles multiple perspectives through a third-person narrator. Take a look, if you’re struggling with the same.

— Karen

burgess

Scary Spaces

Happy Halloween, everyone! I was wondering what would be the scariest picture I could post today—maybe a spider or a blood-covered vampire or Miley Cyrus’ tongue (okay, I can’t help posting that one):

miley cyrus

Yee-ikes. I’ve seen this thing more times lately than I’ve seen my own tongue, and yet it never fails to make me gag.

Anyway, here’s the actual scariest picture I could find:

Messy Office

Yep. That’s my office. That’s where I write, think, research, edit, blog, dream. And I think it’s why I’m having such trouble organizing my thoughts lately.

You think????

Can you say Professional Organizer? Life Coach? Get your shit together?

Just looking at this photo makes me want to weep. You too? Hey, try actually sitting here and working in this garbage heap. What kinds of spaces do real writers work in, I wondered. Hmm. Here’s a sampling.

Stephen King’s office:

Stephen King Office

E.B. White’s office:

EB White's Office

(I guess when you have that view you don’t need much else?)

Virginia Woolf’s office:

Virginia Woolf's Office

None of these, though, exactly evoke the kind of space I have in mind. I’ve decided I need only about four things: a desk, a window, a chair, and some walls where I can tack up ideas and inspirational posters, like that cat hanging on a tree branch (Hang in There, Baby—Friday’s Coming!). No, not that one.

Here’s more what I have in mind:

Writing Desk Photo

Sweet, right? I feel this would be very do-able.

Tomorrow is November 1, which means we have only two months left of the Write Despite challenge. I am vowing to not only keep writing for the next two months, but to have an AFTER picture of my office by then too.

Where do you work? Describe, or post a pic for us! I’d love to know, and to get some ideas.

Write well, everyone!

—Cathy

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