Friday, January 21, 2011

My Writing Process : Part Two

In my previous post which was a part of  the  What’s your Process Blogfest  held by Shallee,  I spoke about my writing process: The Outline. Of how from a free spirited  pantster who waded into unknown territory without any kind of clue about the direction the story would take, or even what the character wanted to do, to how I have become a  big fan of plotting, wherein I plot every little detail of my novel.

Yes, I like to plan quite a bit, but I must tell you that even for die hard plotters and outliners,  plenty of  changes in  the plot happen when we start to actually write the story down.  Its only when we get acquainted with our characters, that they start revealing their secrets and  stories. And very often these secrets and confessions lead to detours in the plot, to scenes that we originally conceived being chopped and  rewritten.

There is nothing like a 100% outline which a writer follows. Outlines are like  basic guidelines which ensure that  a writer does not stray from the story. But actually writing  down the story  may give birth to several  characters and scenes which we had not envisaged during the outlining stage.

 I would put it as  that when we get familiar with our characters they will introduce us to more people who go on to enhance our stories  and plot. This happened with my current WIP. The characters born during the outline stage brought several of their friends and foes into my story.  I personally feel each new character has only enhanced the  story.  I admit it has required several rewrites, but that’s what a writer’s life is all about. Isn’t it?!

My advice to all my plotting friends is, let the characters and situations guide you in  the direction the story has to move. If I had gone by my initial outline, I am sure my WIP would have been bereft of the colourful characters who have jumped in. What we can do is keep all the original drafts, so that when we are concerned with the radical changes we are making,  or have made, we can always compare it with the previous drafts and then decide whether to adopt the new changes or stick to the old ones.

I am not sure that what happened with me happens to only pantsers turned plotters, whereby we  still retain and cling onto writing without planning. Does it happen to all of you? I am dying of curiousity to know whether you all stick to the original outline or do you all take several plot detours and meander through deviations to reach the ultimate destination.

P.S. Due to some personal commitments   I will be unable to post for the coming week. My next post will be on 1st February. Until then, Keep Writing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Writing Process : The Outline

As a part of the What’s your Process Blogfest  held by Shallee,  which I  am participating in,  I chose  to write about my writing process. Starting out as a pantser who had no idea of which direction her story would move in, I have moved on to being a die hard plotter.   

 Nowadays I plot every little detail of my novel. One thing I need to be very clear about is the ending. Because  if  writers have no idea of where they are going with a story, they will never know if  they have reached their destination. A good ending is as important as a powerful beginning.

I am going to talk about how I outline my short stories and books  before I start writing  it. For the short stories (800 to 1000 words) that I pen for the newspapers, I do a one  line outline:  who is the protagonist,  what is his/her conflict and how  it’s  resolved. This  one line  outline  helps me  get a feel of the entire story before I tackle it.

For the longer stories (2500 to 4500 words) that are used in anthologies, I do a one paragraph outline before I sit down to  write the story. This one paragraph outline or the one paragraph  synopsis  has the following things:  the protagonist,  his/her or conflict or goal, the antagonist, or forces against the protagonist, what are the obstacles thrown in the protagonist’s way and how she plans to thwart or overcome them.

For the books  my  initial outline is quite  long, maybe three to four pages ; the protagonist, their current status and what kind of a person  he/she is ( headstrong, reliable, thinker, rash, calm, independent, sentimental ) and which aspect of  their  nature can  get them out of   tight spots and which trait of  theirs can get them into trouble ( this in particular helps me when I am working on the conflict)  the things that perpetually trouble them (another aspect that helps me in creating conflict), their aim in life, the antagonist or forces creating obstacles in their path, the antagonist’s strength and weakness, and how the protagonist  jumps over the  obstacles.

I start with who my protagonist is, what is her world and life, introduce few characters close to the protagonist. Then I add the incident that turns her world upside down; here the antagonist makes the entry and brings in a set of problems that the protagonist has to overcome. Characters on the antagonist’s side are introduced. They increase the tension and intensify the conflict. Characters on the protagonist’s side are also introduced. I write about how these people will assist  the protagonist. Now the protagonist has to choose her path; decide what she/he wants to do. The plan is set into motion. A couple of paragraphs feature the twists and turns in the plot. And then comes the resolution. How things move in the protagonist’s path. This is what I call my Working Outline. Many people call it Pre - Writing  The working outline undergoes several rewrites. With each rewrite I add few details and see the story more fleshed out.  

It’s like I write the entire story (especially the main highlights) in an outline form. As this is not shared with anyone else, it more often than not can go the lengthy route. For my current WIP, just writing down that long outline took several days, but, it brought out the entire story in my mind. After this I start the First Draft.

I have shared my Writing Process. Hope it can be of help to someone. I am waiting to read  everyone’s individual writing process.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Passing on some Love, Cheer and Warmth

Its time to pass on some love, cheer and warmth. Few  months back I received the Wholesome Blogger Award from two wonderful blogging friends: Ellie and Jai. Ladies, I thought I was cool, but, according to you two, I am wholesome, that too double  wholesome. Whatever you all think, I really love the award. Wholesome is healthy. Really healthy.

My awardees for the Wholesome Blogger Award are:

The gracious Ellie  gave  me the L’Aussie Fair Dinkum Award. My awardees are:

  1. Alexia  at  The Life and Literary Pursuits of  Alexia Chamberlynn
  2. Colene Murphy at The Journey
  3. Laura Marcella at Wavy Lines
  4. Michele Helene at A Wanderer in Paris
  5. Pen and Paints at The Write Idea
  6. Saumya Dave at Left and Write Brained
  7. Shallee at Life, the Universe, and Writing
Alexia gave me  the Magical Blog award. My awardees for this are:

  1. Ellie Garratt at Ellie Garratt
  2. Jai Joshi at Jai Joshi’s Tulsi Tree
  3. Julie Musil at Julie Musil
  4. Karen Lange at  Write Now
  5. Lydia Kang at The World is my Oyster
  6. Lynda Young at WIP It
  7. T. Anne at White Platonic Dreams
  8. Terri Tiffany  at Terri Tiffany Inspirational Writer
  Hope you all will love the awards as much as I loved them. Each and every blogger has a great blog where she shares  not just her writing journey, but lots of useful information.  Drop in on them and say Hi from my side.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Creating Lovable and Enduring Characters

Its every writer’s dream to create  lovable and enduring characters: a protagonist or supporting characters readers accept into their life and follow his or her literary journey.  These characters  find instant acceptance, they immediately   befriend a legion of  readers eager to  get to know them better and follow them through the pages.

Several things help to create Lovable and Enduring  characters. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. A Lovable character  has to  Believable. Such a  character must be  as realistic as it’s possible. Then there is an instant  connection  between the reader and character. He or she has to belong to  a world the readers can identify. He or she has to have a real set of problems, much like the problems that haunt us.

2.  A Imperfect Character  who has several  flaws  and  shortcomings  endears himself to the readers. Perfect characters or characters with very few flaws have an artificiality about them. We have an instant dislike for these superior than thou creatures. We love people  who are as flawed as us.

3. A character  who is not afraid  of  Failure is one every reader will love. This character will sacrifice everything to win the conflict, a lot like Harry Potter. This character intensifies the tension with his or her determined attitude to plough through, inspite of the odds stacking up against him/her.

 4. A character not scared to show his or her Emotions. Afterall when a reader is following you page after page, they need to see you  warts and all. They need to see your joys as well as sorrows, your fears as well as strengths, your worries and concerns.   

 5. A character who encounters both Success and Failure is one readers identify with. Isn’t life all about the  highs and lows. The lows the protagonist undergoes makes us rejoice when he or she experiences a high. If a character keeps tasting failure without a bite of success, then the readers label him or her as a loser. And if the character only meets with success, then he is labeled as an overachiever, and the readers somewhere start resenting him.  

6. A character who has  several Inner Demons to conquer. This is as realistic as it can get and also becomes a mirror image of  all  of us.  Life is all about conquering fears. We have as many inner conflicts to overcome as  external conflicts to battle. And our fights with our inner demons is a constant one.

7. A character who arouses our Sympathy and wriggles his/her way into a corner of our heart forges a  bond : albeit a bond of sympathy. James (James and the Giant peach), Mathilda, poor Harry Potter  mistreated by his uncle and aunt, and bullied by his cousin, all wormed their way into our hearts.

8. A character who is slightly Mysterious; has several layers to his personality which have not yet been revealed, wins over anytime. The motives of such characters are not revealed immediately. The intrigued reader  is curious to know more about the character and sticks on despite the plot slackening in places.

What do you think goes into creating lovable and enduring characters? Which trait in a character appeals to you the most? How do you go all go about creating a well rounded character, a character readers will love? We all are eagerly awaiting your tips to perfect our own characters.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Do Characters make a Story?

Recently I read a book  where I was  captured by the  story and the descriptions. The main character: an old man from whose point of view the book was written did not appeal to me much. His weak bladder courtesy his prostrate problems, his  nostalgia  over his wife (he was  a widower), his problems with his children ; who he felt  were cold and indifferent to his needs, were all regular affairs.

But what kept me hooked was the style of the narrative: the story moved from person to person,  where after the main character meets a person, the story then starts tracking the new entrant’s life: past and current.

The descriptions  in the book were amazing. The writer’s eye for detail was mindblowing. I am always fascinated with writing that encapsulates sensory details.

The main character’s  run of the mill problems :common occurrences of old age  were incorporated seamlessly  into the story;  at no point did I feel that the author was bombarding me with information. Infact, I felt  that I had become the old man’s confidante and he was confiding   his problems, little by little, to me.

That’s one thing I love about descriptions which gently creep in on the reader taking him or  her by surprise. It’s something I am trying to work at. I found both : the story and the story telling technique unique, though the main character did not  evoke any emotion from me: I  didn’t love him, nor did I  hate him, and neither did I sympathize with him, I just loved his story and had to read on, to know what happened next.

This got me thinking that I have become partial to the story, more than the  main character. I feel a good story will make even a weak character look appealing, the opposite is true of a not so good story, which will make the character look spineless.

To be able to create a world where a  strong character  is captured in a powerful story is what writing is all about. I feel stories make characters, and characters just enhance and take the story forward. I just go by my feeling when I have read a book. If I have liked a story, then even a not so great character gets my vote, but if the story has failed to strike a chord with me, then, however great the character, I  wouldn’t root for it.

What do you look for when you read? Do you tilt towards the story, or do you lean towards strong characters.  What do you think is important;  the main character  or the story? What would you concentrate on while writing your own stories: Character or Plot. Please share with us.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Promises to Myself

I always make resolutions  only to break them in the next few days. Every new year I decide to eat less desserts, chocolates and Ice-creams and junk food (my weaknesses). The next day I would have binged and eaten the week’s share of these goodies. My exercise regimen after the initial burst of enthusiasm goes for a toss. So do my good intentions to be  a better daughter, sister, friend, aunt and confidante as I end up fighting accusations that I have not returned phone calls and ended up canceling outings.

But the promises I make to my parents and loved ones are sacrosanct. I never break them as that would be tantamount to hurting them, breaking their hearts, letting them down and shattering  their implicit faith and trust in me.

Last year I chartered two new territories: I started teaching Creative Writing  in college and started blogging. Both brought me in touch with wonderful people and enriched my growth as a writer. 

This year  I have decided to do away with resolutions, which I  am anyways unable to keep. So it will be a waste of time even making them. But I have made several promises to myself. I hope I don’t let myself down.

  1. I will try  to read  few books every month.

  1. I  will try to read atleast one book in my genre every month.

  1. I will try to read a few classics every few months.

  1. I will do some mental workout. Try Flash Fiction and Micro Fiction. It’s a wonderful way to sharpen my writing skills and polish my editing  skills.

  1. I will work on creating  unusual characters and pay a lot of attention to creating wonderful settings.

  1. I will spend few days before starting a new WIP, on brainstorming about it.

  1. I will work on that query letter and start sending out my manuscripts to publishers.

  1. I will read atleast two writing Craft Books this year.

  1. I will critique other  writers’ stories, picture book, first few chapters or Query Letters. Last year I critiqued 9. This year I want to do more. As critiquing is a wonderful  way of learning and helping someone.

  1. I will write daily. However busy my schedule is, I am trying to write atleast a page daily.

  1. I will read a few pages daily.

  1.  I will try to keep in touch with all my loved ones.

  1.  I will try to attend a  writing workshop or conference this year.

 What  are the promises  you have made to yourself where writing is concerned? Would you care to share it with us? I am sure we can help you  stay on your track by regularly motivating you.