On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Pontificating on Writing - Priorities

I was at critique group and got started on a lecturing/pontificating tone about priorities. One of my critique buddies does excellent characterization, but she DOES like a big character arc, so sometimes her characters start out as less than sympathetic.

I've been thinking about this a lot (and was thinking of doing a blog on it), and I know I've discussed it before, and since I've made the mistakes, I feel that I can pontificate about them, especially when I see them.

You want a great character arc, you want a depressed hero/heroine to grow greatly, problem is, readers aren't very interested in reading about unsympathetic and/or wimpy characters. So you gotta problem.

Bottom line, you want to tell the story the way you want to tell the story? Or do you want to be published?

So I said. I think this blog has been going to my head, I feel able to lecture at the drop of a hat.

AND, I just finished listening to Northern Lights by Nora Roberts, one of my favorite books. I'm really going to have to see how she manages to start and hook with a severely clinically depressed hero. I think because he IS struggling to emerge from his depression, that he does value life, that he lives day to day, and now that I really think about it, he isn't a loner. He forces himself to socialize, and enjoys peoples' company. Brilliant. The first person he really spends time with is a young boy, so you sort of see the shadow of the man the hero once was.

That is an exception to the rule, but it's an exception because she handles it so well.

My thief had to have less anger and resentment at the beginning than I originally wanted. My suicidal heroine (Heart Change, if I sell it), can't want to throw herself off the cliffs anymore, she just is "blue." Melancholy. That's going to take a little bit of doing, but I've started, and think that I've got it right.

So, there you have it, the "advice" for the day -- 1) blog every day on writing and your ideas will solidify and you will pontificate. 2) One of the reader's rules is that heroes and heroines have to be sympathetic, so no angry thieves or suicidal heroines.

And really, this is another one of those things where you think your own work is ok, but when you see the same error in someone else's, you get it.

May you enjoy your night.

Oh, and I just flipped the image of the background. I think I like it better. Let me know.


Blogger Jeri said...

Great food for thought, Robin. I've always found that really dark emotional arcs sound great in theory (i.e., at outline stage), but when it comes to writing the actual book, they end up making the characters seem passive.

Depression is a tricky thing to pull off realistically. People lose expressiveness and desire--two things that help readers relate to characters. Sometimes they are not very nice to others, thus losing sympathy points.

I think the Nora Roberts example shows that the more you can externalize and dramatize the feelings and make them move the story ahead (as opposed to having them sit around moping), the better. I just did a character with post-traumatic stress disorder, and in the rewrite I made her symptoms more dramatic (e.g., incapacitating flashbacks, one of which results in a major plot point) in addition to her feelings of disconnection.

Good luck with HEART CHANGE! I'm sure you will rise to the challenge.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Thanks, Jeri. You're right, too. As for Heart Change, it isn't sold yet, and if it is, I have a feeling that the title will change.


8:17 AM  

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