Characters, Writing

Who are the stars of your book?

The probability of any of my novels ever making it to the big screen—or even the small one—is remote. Considering some of the horrible book adaptations I’ve seen, that may be a blessing. But I’m not waiting on Hollywood anyway. I’ve already cast mine.

Actually, I’ve recast them. When I started the first draft of The Brevity of Roses, I visualized certain actors as some of the characters, but by the time I finished, those had changed. I expect you also visualize the characters you read and write about.

Do you see them as celebrities, people you know in real life, or do you use the details given in the book to conjure your own images? Maybe you use a combination. Maybe you see only vague images. While I wrote Brevity, I could never see Renee’s face clearly. I saw brief glimpses, but could never hold on to the image.

Do you prefer an author to describe their characters in exacting detail or leave some things to your imagination? (I prefer to use my imagination.)

Are you ever disappointed in the casting when you see a movie adaptation of a novel you’ve read? (Yes. And it takes me a while to adjust my brain. It never did for Interview with the Vampire.)

If you’re a writer, do you ever wonder how readers visualize your characters? (I do, so if you’ve read anything of mine and would like to share who you saw as my characters, please share.)

Blog Stuff, Characters, Fiction, Novel, Writing

You Won’t Be Anonymous, And I’m Not Crazy

I’ve noticed that some of you who take the time to leave a comment have become somewhat anonymous. Since WordPress made changes to their comment policy last month, now, unless you’re a WordPress blogger, the avatar that appears next to your comment might not link to your blog. That’s unfortunate because the real reason you bother to comment is in hope someone will click your avatar and visit your blog. Right?

Okay, it’s not the only reason, but it’s a benefit. I don’t mind at all. And I discovered I can help you out. That is, if I know the address of your blog, I can help. I finally noticed that from my dashboard, I have the option to edit the email address or link-back URL in your comment. So from now on, if you leave a comment and it doesn’t link to your blog, I’ll try to correct that.

I’ve said many times on this blog that I find it necessary to edit as I write. It’s almost impossible for me to move on when I’m aware that a sentence is clunky, or I’ve made a poor word choice, or otherwise phoned it in. I’m not saying I never do those things, but when I know I’ve done one of them, I have to fix it before I can continue writing. It’s the same when I know I’m not going deep enough into a character, I fuss and fume until I break through.

But something weird has happened as I write my current novel. I know I’m leaving out things and I’m okay with it. In some scenes, I’ve skimmed the surface of my main character. I know there should be a lot going on in her head, but I’m not exploring it yet. She’s doing things, saying things, but she’s mostly shut me out of her head—if you know what I mean.

That seemed just plain crazy to me because that’s not the way I usually write. Always before, though I wrote the dialogue first, I’ve just as clearly known what my characters were only thinking. This new, seemingly chaotic, way of writing bothered me, but I’d delayed so long already on this book that I had to keep writing.

Then I started to feel excited about these missing pieces of narrative, as if I were waiting to open a gift. Recently, I’ve been hearing passages of my character’s thoughts, and they were worth the wait. I’m not sure where they’ll fit in the book yet, but I wrote them down. For now, what can I do but write and look forward to all my future gift boxes?

FREE BOOK: If you missed getting a digital copy of The Brevity of Roses on the free days in February, you have another chance. Tomorrow and Friday (May 3-4), you can download it free from Amazon. Remember, you don’t have to have a Kindle to read a Kindle book, just install the free reader for your computer or smart phone.

Characters, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

My decision to quit writing

Last week, I had lunch with two other writers and came home totally depressed. I don’t blame them. They didn’t do or say anything directly to bottom me out. As I listened to them speak, I realized I felt disconnected from their world. That night I told my husband I’d decided to quit writing. He told me to sleep on it.

For four days I didn’t write a word, not even a blog post. Instead, I read. And I played a lot of games on Facebook. At first, that felt weird. I was anxious. By the end of the second day, I relaxed. It felt right not to be writing. I could just walk away. Let it go.

On the third day, I realized I’d returned to the way I’d told stories for most of my life— in my head. I continued with the story I’d been trying to force into a novel for months. It flowed without effort. I enjoyed it. But not until late on the fourth day did I actually “hear” the story, and when I did, I knew why I’d quit working on the version for publication.

Let’s back up a bit.

I’d been writing that novel in my head for months before I sat down to begin entering it into a Word file, so I wrote the first few chapters quickly. I opened with a short chapter in third person past tense  and then moved to first person present tense (FPPT) for the next chapters because that was the way I “heard” the main character’s voice. I would use three short third-past chapters spaced throughout the book, but the bulk would be in first-present.

Then I read that most current novels for the adult market are written in third-past, and a first person novel is hard to write well, and present tense is tiring or boring or some other negative for the reader. I questioned my wisdom. I revised. I changed all the chapters to the “best” person and tense. I pushed on.

I wrote a couple of chapters more, and then got distracted by other projects. I wrote another chapter of the novel, and then I worked on something more pressing. I wrote a paragraph or two for the novel, and then I got this great idea and worked it into a short story. I wrote a few words on the novel, and then … and then … and then I gave up on it.

I stopped writing the novel. I stopped writing. Period.

Why? Well, it seems if you stop listening to your character’s voice, eventually that character stops speaking to you. She says, “You don’t like the way I’m telling this story? Fine. Tell it without me.”

Silly me.

Do over. Stop being a sheep. Revise the revision. Start listening again. Write.

Characters, Dream, Fiction, Short story, Writing

It’s YA and bleak! Why the heck am I writing this story?

I’m writing a story unlike any I’ve written before. It’s sort of YA dystopian. I didn’t ask for this story, I dreamed it. Actually, it was too intense to call a dream, so let’s call it a nightmare—the kind you force yourself to wake from because you’re too afraid to see the end.

Is it that intense on paper? No. At least, not yet. This has been my first attempt at writing without any preliminary writing—no crucial scenes pre-written, no dialogue already recorded. I don’t like writing first drafts. I know in my head where the story is going, but since I haven’t written the climactic scene, it’s driving me nuts not knowing if it’s going to turn out well. Yet, I keep plugging away.

This story has already gone through major changes. I’ve altered the original ending, which I sensed, but didn’t actually see, in my dream. I made that decision because I realized early that this was not a story about a girl; this was a girl’s story. I needed to tell it all from her point of view.

I’m eons way from my teen years. It’s not easy for me to get deep into the mindset of a 15 year-old girl. I have teen-aged granddaughters, so I’m not totally out of that world, but still …

So, yeah. That’s what I’m working on. I’m trying to ignore that inner critic asking me what makes me think I can write this story … or pointing out how much time I’ll have wasted when it fails. Someday I’m going to make her the victim in a violent tale.

Your turn: What sort of challenges do you set for yourself?

Book Reviews, Characters, Feedback, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Reader, Writing

Psychoanalyzing fictional characters

Clinical psychologist Suzanne Conboy-Hill and I have been virtual friends for a year and a half. Recently she read my novel The Brevity of Roses. I was a little apprehensive when she tweeted that she had started reading it because I figured she might analyze my characters and find them wanting. This is how she reviewed my novel on Amazon:

“There are two things you should know; I’m not a fan of romantic fiction so I would never have read Brevity if Linda were not a twitter-buddy. I approached this with some trepidation, but once started, I read over half the novel at one sitting and the rest at another. It had me. Why? Hard to say because I really wanted to smack Jalal for his adolescent self absorption. Then I wanted to yell at the women around him who seemed hell-bent on keeping him that way. But maybe it was because, in my youth, I would have fallen hook, line & sinker for him. Maybe it’s because he was so well drawn that I was reminded of an incident in a café when an equally stunning creature dived out ahead of me and pulled up at the bus stop, offering me a lift ‘to the rest of my life’*.

Perhaps I saw myself in Renee, jealous of her predecessor, and intimidated by Jalal’s wealth and position. The feminist in me hated the family kitchen scenes, the division of labour, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ but not ‘up-front’ cleverness of the women. In short, I ranted at the characters, identified with some of them, yelled at them to avoid the traps I’ve fallen into myself, and growled at their weaknesses and ineptitudes. Now that’s writing! Make me forget I’m reading something I’d normally avoid; make me angry with the characters so that the writing becomes the skilful, competent engine that purrs quietly beneath; get me involved with people whose behaviours make me spit feathers, and I’d say you’ve got yourself an authoritative author.

If romantic fiction is your thing, you will love this. If it isn’t, give it a try; you might find you’ve inadvertently read a very satisfying, well plotted novel that had you involved enough to be hissing at the page. I wonder if, like me, you will still be yelling ‘No no no!’ as you close the book. And on whose behalf …

*I accepted. It wasn’t!”

As a rule, I would never question, or argue with, a reviewer, but I couldn’t resist picking Suzanne’s brain a little more. I tried hard to make my characters believable and their thoughts, words, and actions consistent with the “psychological profile” I had given them, so I was curious to know how she interpreted a few things. Plus, I wanted to know on whose behalf she was yelling, “No no no!”

So, now we’ve exchanged a couple emails on the subject of the psychology behind my characters, even discussing what might happen to them after the last scene in the book. We agree and disagree on various points, but I was relieved to find we aren’t far off.

As writers, we sometimes find it hard to leave off that editor hat when we read. I guess, for those who wear it, it’s just as hard to leave off the psychologist’s hat. Thanks for the free analysis, Suzanne. 🙂