Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Corralling the Wayward Character

Corralling the Wayward Character—or what to do when a character writes his own story?

Many writers say that their books write themselves. Sometimes that happens to me and as long as I agree with what my characters do, well, that just makes my job easier. But what do you do when a character will not keep on the path you’ve created for him?

There are many conflicting views on the subject. Here are two of them:

Toni Morrison Dispenses Writing Wisdom in 1993 Paris Review: As for keeping control of her characters, Morrison says, “They have nothing on their minds but themselves and aren’t interested in anything but themselves. So you can’t let them write your book for you.

In Steven King’s On Writing he states, “I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s something I never expected. For a suspense novelist, this is a great thing. I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but it’s first reader. And if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the dammed thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a stage of page-turning anxiety.

Maybe it’s best to compromise between these views, but how? I have been contemplating this since 2013 and have come to a conclusion. As long as the character pleasantly surprises me and moves the story forward along the lines I have in mind then I’ll let them keep surprising me and keep developing the story. But when a character tries to make the story about him/herself instead of about the protagonist’s conflict then I need to delete the wayward activity by nipping it in the bud.

In my upcoming novel, ALL THE VOICES IN MY HEAD, Parker Allen wrote the first part of the story well then began to wander down a whole different path. I didn’t realize what was happening until I didn’t want to write anymore. I thought I had writer’s block, but it wasn’t that at all. I didn’t like the story and I hated Parker for ruining my protagonist’s life. I’d written 57,000 words and 22,500 of them were Parker’s wayward life.

Recently, with my husband’s advice, I realized that I had to either dump the entire story or kill off Parker. I couldn’t do either. So I cut out all of Parker’s bad behavior, and unwanted wanderings, fried his brain, and forced him into an irreversible coma. 

It hurt me to cut that many words. It’s always difficult for a writer to cut chunks out of a beloved manuscript, but then that’s what good writing is about. So now that I’m back on track I expect ALL THE VOICES IN MY HEAD to be released later this year.

All the Voices in My Head blurb: 
Gloria Webber’s college sweetheart and fiancĂ© mysteriously disappears from her life in 1987. The next year she recklessly enters into a stormy marriage with Parker Allen, a would be rock star. Years later, with Parker in a protracted coma caused by drugs and alcohol, Gloria has an opportunity to turn her life around. However, she would have to divorce Parker and forsake her wedding vows to do so.

A few cover ideas. What do you think?

Visit my All lthe Voices in My Head story board on Pintrest 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why Do Writers Write?

To tell a story? To tell a story for profit? To tell a story to garner fame? To write a story to win a prize? Or maybe writers write because they have to, because they have a passion so deep that it won’t let them do anything else.

Last month I was inspired to write a memoir for a contest titled HARD TIMES (sponsored by NC Writers’ Network). This hard times story of mine had been buried within me for years. It isn’t a pleasant story and it doesn’t have that happy conclusion I make sure all my novels possess. I didn’t write it or enter it into the contest to win. I wrote a story that has plagued my life since 1991. I wrote the story because I had to. Because it wasn’t just my story; it was my husband’s as well. We had suffered in silence long enough.

This husband of mine, Bud Rudesill, is a scientist…a geologist to be specific. But in his heart of hearts, he’s an artist. He’s an artist because he has to be one. If he can’t create something he will die.

From a young age Bud valued the work of his Great-grand Uncle Jack and was inspired to follow in his footsteps. Jack Wilkinson Smith is arguably the father of plein air impressionism and one of California’s most important painters.

Bud’s done just about everything: ceramics, sculpture, bronze casting, silver and goldsmithing for jewelry, carpentry, watercolor and oil painting and teaching it all at a variety of colleges and art schools. While working on his Master’s Degree he taught undergrad art students THE ART OF POTTERY and his master’s thesis is NATIVE MATERIALS FOR ART CERAMICS. He also taught at Arcosanti (Paolo Soleri’s architectural experiment), The University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Central Wyoming Community College, The Art School in Carrboro, NC, and The Penland School for Arts and Crafts in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. (For a short bio of Bud click here.)

The year after my first novel was published, Bud accompanied me to Gardenia Press’ annual writers conference. He thought he might offer his services as a book cover artist but was inspired to write instead. When we returned home he began writing a novel. He worked diligently for a couple of weeks before he completed the first draft of a 135,000 word novel of pure gibberish titled IF GOD IS ON OUR SIDE. Since then he’s honed his writing skills and written at least twenty novels, novells, and short stories, most of which are published on Amazon/Kindle. Just like his jack-of-all-trades art, his writing genres include historical fiction of the American West, mainstream fiction involving love stories, espionage, the one percent, and time travel.

Because Bud Rudesill is my hero and because today is his birthday, I’m dedicating this blog post to him and his lifelong passion to create beautiful things.