Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sparkly Chapter Meeting

Our chapter meeting last night was about putting the spark back in your writing. Our presenters Susan Lute and Darla Lukenbaugh had a really great handout and exercise for those who attended.

We had to choose one of our protagonists and give them a VISION. Meaning, what they see as their life, their identity, how they try to present themselves to the world around them. I'm not quoting word for word here, so bear with me while I try to explain the exercises. Thanks! And, if any of you who attended the meeting got something different out of it and think I'm waaaay off, please feel free to correct me. Really. I mean it. :)

We also, at the end of the presentation, had to give a vision of ourselves. Our perfect vision of ourselves. So mine might go something like this...

My vision for myself is I'm a fabulous wife and mother who gets all my house work done before six in the morning so I can go exercise, shower, shampoo and shine before my little darlings awake for the day. I fix a healthy balanced breakfast each day for my family and then I whisk them off to school where they get perfect grades because of the love and support they have from such a wonderful home life. While they're gone I sit at the computer and write for five hours straight, never tiring, and the story flows together so perfectly that re-writing isn't even a consideration. Then I close the computer to go prepare another healthy balanced meal for my perfect little family and we all enjoy an animated conversation about our day around the dinner table. Everyone is happy. I'm completely unstressed and have no worries about life because everything always fits together like a delicate hand in a kid glove.

Sickening huh? But that's a vision I can have for myself. I can visualize having my life this way. It's my vision. It doesn't have to be reality.

Your characters can have a vision for themselves, too. But it doesn't have to be their reality. Oh no. You, as the author, can slam them into reality. Here's where the spark can come in. Put your character through the ringer, so to speak. Screw with their vision. Does this make sense?

Next, we gave our protagonist a SECRET (or mystery). What do they not want anyone to know about them. For example, Susan has a character that has a secret identity. It could be anything though. You know the secret. Think about it. What is it?

Then you become your protagonist by answering the questions... "I am..., I want..., I feel..."

You can have more than one sentence to answer these questions. We were challenged to come up with at least three "I want..." statements.

Then finally you need to ask your character this... What will you do to get what you want?

At the end of their presentation they had us write this...

1. I will do whatever it takes to get published, except don't ask me to...

2. I am writing this book because...

It was an interesting and fun presentation to do and even better once I was driving home and pondering it.

I hope my rendition of Susan and Darla's presentation will help those of you who weren't able to attend the chapter meeting. I hope it helps you to think about your characters and your goals for them and your story and that it will help put a spark into your writing too.

Like I said before, please feel free to add to or correct any information I've given here about the presentation.

And if any of you are brave and willing, go ahead and answer these questions and post them in the comments section. (You may want to do this on your own for both your hero and your heroine.)

1. Pick one of the protagonists:
2. Give your protagonist a VISION:
3. Give your protagonist a SECRET (or mystery):
4. Become your protagonist by using the "Magic I" (I am..., I want..., I feel...).

Many thanks to Susan Lute and Darla Lukenbaugh for this presentation and to their partner Wendy Warren.

Good luck and may the SPARK be with you!


Elisabeth Naughton said...

Really good run-down, Piper. The only thing I would add is that I think they were hinting that the character's "vision" is aliken to Michael Hauge's character "essence" rather than their identity. It's confusing, and it still confuses me, but I think they were saying that the "vision" is what the character CAN be, even if they don't realize it at the beginning of the book. In Michael Hauge's model, the identity is the mask the character hides behind at the beginning of the story and their essence is what they eventually become.

In this exercise, I think it was very hard to give your character a "vision", especially when you're talking about a book you haven't written yet. And I think sometimes, as a writer, you don't know your character's "vision" or "essence" until you start writing and get to know them better. At least I don't.

All in all though, great meeting, and it got me thinking of things in a completely different light.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I forgot about the exercise. :)

Okay, I'm doing this for the wip (AKA: the book that just won't die).

1. Pick one of the protagonists:
Katherine Meyer - heroine.

2. Give your protagonist a VISION:
To be a well-respected Egyptologist, to clear her name and get her old life back.

3. Give your protagonist a SECRET (or mystery):
This isn't an earth shattering secret, but it greatly affects the romance: She's been in hiding for several years because of a crime she witnessed. Her secret is that she didn't go into hiding to save her own life, she did it to keep her lover safe, even though she's not entirely sure he's completely innocent of being involved in what she saw. So she has serious doubts about him, but she cares enough about him that she's willing to do just about anything to keep him safe. He doesn't know the reasons she disappeared.

4. Become your protagonist by using the "Magic I" (I am..., I want..., I feel...).

I want my old life back.
I want to Pete to be safe.
I want to be able to trust him
I feel lonely.

Okay, Piper. Your turn. :)

Paty Jager said...

I agree Eli, I pondered some of the questions Darla and Su put to our characters last night and it made me think about my characters deeper- if that makes sense. LOL

And yes, I think it takes getting into the book and actually writing from a character's POV for a while before you know their essence or vision. You can't become that person/character until you've walked in their shoes, I don't care how many character charts/graphs or interviews you do, you don't know that character until you've been them through a few scenes.

But it was a great thought provoking topic. And thanks Piper for putting it into such succinct perspective! And you thought you didn't have a topic for the blog today!

Paty Jager said...

OOPs! I did too!

1. Pick one of the protagonists:
Since I did Ethan last night, I'll do Aileen, the heroine

2. Give your protagonist a VISION: To one day reclaim her son's inheritance.

3. Give your protagonist a SECRET (or mystery): She knows who killed both her husbands.

4. Become your protagonist by using the "Magic I" (I am..., I want..., I feel...).

I want my son to know his roots.
I want my children to live an easier life.
I want to never be ordered around by anyone again.

Barbara said...

Good summary and follow-up on our meeting, Piper. The part that was most difficult for me was distinguishing between my protagonist's goal and her vision. Someone used the words "ideal self-image" to describe VISION and that clicked for me. I chose my heroine Cherie. She sees herself as a sexy, adventurous woman starting a second life which she hopes will include a love life. Her secret is that she has recently lost 60 lbs. and fears that she will gain it all back and be abandoned. Her "I" statements: "It's my turn now. I want to create a new life for myself with a man who loves me. I want to feel vibrant and alive. I want to take chances and find out who I really am." This is a little like writing affirmations for my character, saying "I am this..." when I know I'm not yet there, but I want to be. I think the book is about what she is willing to give up in order to get there. Thanks Susan and Darla!

Anonymous said...

Eli-- I totally agree with you about not knowing the essence or vision until you start getting into the story. And the way Michael Hauge teaches about this is awesome.

Thanks for your example on the exercise!

Oh, and I'm not taking a turn this time. :) I'll do it when I have a better grasp of my characters. (I'm a chicken sh!t. LOL

Anonymous said...

Thanks Paty. And I'm guessing it's a pansters thing to have to wait to find out what the vision is for the character, or the essence. You're right, you have to get into the characters head for bit before it all makes sense to you.

Thanks for doing the exercise!

Anonymous said...

Great vision for your character Barbara. I can totally see where her secret would be such a great fear. Ugh! I hate worrying about being fat! LOL

Thanks for sharing yours too!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so maybe I should share my vision for my YA hero. I mean, I'm feeling guilty not doing it. LOL

1. Pick one of the protagonists:
Laykn -- Hero

2. Give your protagonist a VISION:
I will live like all the people on this planet. I can give up my life and culture from planet Met, while still maintaining my perfect relationship with my family and best friends who embrace both ways of life. I have the ability to balance this perfectly. I will be everything Sophie needs me to be, and everything my family and friends need me to be. My life on earth is perfect.

3. Give your protagonist a SECRET (or mystery):
Laykn, his family, and his two best friends are from another planet. He and his family have responsibilities to fulfill while on earth; and eventually he has to go back to his own planet.

4. Become your protagonist by using the "Magic I" (I am..., I want..., I feel...).

I am an alien on this planet.

I want to be what Sophie needs; to be a human male for her and our future.

I want to protect Sophie from giving up her life to be with me.

I want Sophie to be mine forever.

I feel fearful deep inside that there's no way to have Sophie and fulfill my responsibilities to her and to my home planet at the same time.

Paty Jager said...

Oh, Piper- Good conflict! Sounds interesting!

Su said...

First let me say for both Darla and I...thanks for having us at your meeting. We had a blast!

I just wanted to remind you that a character's vision is different from their personal or story goals...and yes, sometimes very illusive, especially for us pantsers.

I want to do the assignment too, so here goes...

Samantha's vision...

I am the perfect Mom. I live in the perfect house. My girls are happy and have no lasting emotional problems from the horrible death of their natural parents, because I've given them the perfect home life.

Samantha's secret...

She has a secret identity her family, especially her ex-Marine father knows nothing about. If he did he'd take steps to reign her in and run interference in a misguided attempt to protect her.

The Magic "I" statements...

I love my new twin girls more than anything.

If I have to reveal my secret to give the girls a perfect home where they will be happy and have nothing to worry about, then I will. But only if there are no other options.

I will not be using my Marine brother's best bud in my new photo assignment, no matter what my editor says. If the hunky hero finds out my secret, it won't be any time at all before he reports the information to my over protective Special Ops father and brother.

Happy writing!