Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Scares You?

Happy Halloween, everyone! We just got our power back as a Halloween treat after Hurricane Sandy blew through earlier this week (she came as a wicked witch). So, in keeping with the spookiness of All Hallows Eve, I thought I’d toss out a question for you to chew on instead of those candy bars or caramel apples begging for your attention.

Pumpkins by markmiller at

What frightens you most about starting a new writing project?

Does coming up with an idea feel a bit too much like putting together a Frankenstein monster (from scratch)?

Or, do you worry about surviving that unholy bog that is the middle of a novel or writing project? Working through that can be more challenging than pulling through a sour swamp blanketed in a slimy fog—at night, with no moon.

Or, does an unknown ending hover over your shoulders, baring threatening fangs?

Scaryface by wallyir at
Perhaps you worry that your characters won’t develop any more charisma than hollow-eyed zombies?

Maybe the voice, or the lack of one, haunts you?

For me, the thought of writing the first draft of a new novel brings on chills and sleepless nights. I’ve been known to wake up screaming at the mere thought of sitting down to write a first draft. Terrifying.

Whatever part of writing frightens you most, be brave and face it with your favorite trick or treat in hand. I recommend chocolate or caramels, but a good book on writing technique, a workshop, or guidance from others in the know can also be helpful. Just remember that writers are courageous and can (usually) conquer the scariest of hurdles. It’s a big part of what we do.

Happy writing and trick-or-treating!
And wishing those coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy warmth and a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

That Character Did What???

Photo by Blueprint,
I am well into reading this novel and enjoying it--really enjoying it. The main character happened to be this guy obsessed with being neat and fastidious. Very detail oriented with a hearty dislike of littering and sloppiness of any kind. Then, midway through the novel, the guy tosses aside half of a sandwich, paper wrapper, napkin and all, without any pang of guilt. Not even a passing thought. What? This threw me until a few paragraphs later, when I realized that the tossed sandwich served a distinct purpose—a plot purpose. Mr. Fastidious acted out of character in order to allow something else to happen in the plot. Hmm, kind of a Bozo no-no, wouldn’t you say?

Confession time: The writer in me does, at times, become tempted to have a character do something he or she would never do. Why? To set up an event I need in the plot. But as a reader, this device leaves me cold and disappointed. I want, at the very least, the character to recognize what he’s doing and have a reason for doing it. Otherwise, I stop believing in that character. The magic is gone; the fictional balloon is popped. Bozo puts on a disappointed face and wags his finger (which is never good).

Have you ever stumbled over a character that did something unbelievable in order to serve the plot? Did you throw the book away or shrug this off and read on?

Writers, have you ever been tempted to have a character do something that doesn’t work for his or her personality (and hope no one notices—especially Bozo)?