Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best Face Forward

For my 18th birthday, my parents asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted a makeover. You know, have some person tell me what make-up colors look good for my skin and eye color and how to apply it to my face. That kind of thing.
So, we went to this local woman who had me sit down in front of a magnifying mirror and started looking at my face. The only thing I remember from that day was one comment she made. She was shaking her head as she was studying my face and said, “You know, you really shouldn’t smile so much because you are starting to get laugh lines around your mouth.”
I started to laugh. I thought she was kidding. Not smile? Are you for real? What’s the point of life if you don’t smile and laugh?
Thankfully, I didn’t take her sage advice. And yes, I do have some laugh lines, which I’m proud of, usually. (Although some creams wouldn’t hurt to lessen them a little. Is that shallow?)

I think that’s why those Beverly Hills housewives look so strange to our eyes, or at least mine. It’s not that they’ve had Botox or plastic surgery, I’ll support anything that makes a person feel good about themselves. It’s because they went a little too far. They cut away their individuality. They cut away the things that make them unique, different, special. Now they all look the same. Some have brown hair with long hair extensions and some have blonde hair with long hair extensions, and they all have the same wide-eyed, permanent smiling faces-even when they’re not smiling. Their face is pulled so tightly that they can’t seem to look relaxed.

I think it does pertain to writing. We all don’t want our novels to look the same. We want our stories to have laugh lines and maybe even some grey hairs. We want depth. We want to feel that our characters had to work through their lives. We want to care.
Maybe that’s one of the things, (the many things), that made Harry Potter so interesting. His scar made him different, not perfect, but even more, it made him special. We wanted him to be victorious. We cheered for him- our flawed, courageous underdog.

So, just like my 18-year-old self laughed at this crazy woman who told me to smile less, we should see that when a character is too perfect, or too refined, it gives the feeling of a shallow and superficial story that is difficult to embrace.   
Show your characters’ faults. The reader will care and will root for you and your characters’ success. Isn’t that what we want from our reader?

We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.

Love yourself- laugh lines and all!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Discovering Your Story

I have been writing a new middle grade story for a few weeks. I love the characters and I love where the story has started from- but, after reading the book, SAVE THE CAT, by Blake Snyder (more to come on that after I attend the Save the Cat workshop in March-can’t wait!!) I realized that my story had a major problem, well, actually two major problems.

First problem- I didn’t have a villain. I didn’t know who the bad guy was, and why he was the bad guy in the first place.
Second problem- Why??? Why was the bad guy bad? Why was my hero the one who needed to fix my unknown problem?

OMG-What did I have???

I had gigantic problems. Actually, you can also consider them creative, exciting problems. I get to build a world, create the rules, laws, and where the problem originated so I can figure out how to fix it.
It now seems so obvious, but at the time, I just was writing and enjoying the journey and wasn’t looking ahead. It will come to me. I loved my main character. I knew he’d take me somewhere. But, as the SAVE THE CAT book made crystal clear- I need more. Of course I discovered my story had these problems right before I was about to go to sleep two nights ago. You can just imagine my dreams!
Actually, it was perfect timing because the next morning I was meeting my friend that I’ve known almost all my life, Robyn, at a Panera in between our two houses. She’s also a writer and has written a romance novella called, TAKE ME FOR LONGING, available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites under her pen name, Felice Fox.
So, first, I started to plot. On an blank piece of paper I wrote my main characters names and as much as I knew about them. That’s when I realized I didn’t know them well enough! I then wrote the other characters, the details that I did know, and lots of arrows and lines and words until they all met together with the three words:
BAD GUY??    WHY???
The fun began. I started to build a family tree for my hero, then the beginnings of the world they live in, then some simplistic arcs that my characters need to take. Robyn was a great sounding board. Should the bad guy be the uncle? No, it’s always the uncle-just look at Lion King. How about the friend? No-no real reason. Then I looked at the cousin. Yes!! The cousin. You are the bad guy and you have some serious problems buddy!
Some of my whys and wheres and hows were answered. Some weren’t yet. But it was an amazing time trying to piece them all together to make a meaningful, high-staked, fun story that I can’t wait to continue to discover.
Well, I’m off to continue this discovery.

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” 
~Marcel Proust

Have a fantastic weekend and enjoy your new discoveries!