Monday, September 21, 2009


Current Project: Starting something new
Status: Good so far...

I've given up on my WIP. Well, I suppose I shouldn't phrase it like that. I've decided that completely reworking the story for a third time isn't worth MY time. I have finally figured out what I've been doing wrong the past few years. I over-plot and don't spend enough time developing my characters before I start writing. I let the plot lead the story, rather than the character interaction.

Not this time, baby!

I have decided to start on an idea I've been kicking around for a while. I've got the basic conflict and plot down, but that's it. All I've been thinking about is my characters. Who are they? Why are they in conflict with each other? How do they compliment each other? What about them becomes vital to the other's happiness by the end of the story? I started with trying to develop a flaw for each of them. Feeling mush brain after working a lot yesterday, I turned to the internet to try and track down some lists of character flaws. I know I've seen them before - they are helpful for basic brainstorming. But I couldn't find one to save my life. And, by the way, all of a sudden there is a million Web sites out there for brainstorming characters for online and role playing games.

Then I started thinking about archetypes. I love archetypes. Huge fan. They work so well in stories and each archetype can be individualized easily enough that it doesn't feel like the same person over and over. If you think about it, everyone has different reasons for become the person who falls under a certain archetype.

I wasn't having much luck googling what I wanted to see - examples of archetype compatibility in romance. Then I remembered, I have a ton of writing books on my shelves! DUH! I walked over and found a treasure trove of character books. (I guess I've secretly known for a while that this is a weakness of mine and began collecting help for when I finally realized I needed it!) Then I saw the Holy Grail, my personal favorite archetype book: "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: 16 Master Archetypes" by Tami Cowden. I love, love, LOVE this book. Eight major male and female archetypes are broken down into simple terms with examples from major movies. Then, each hero and heroine archetype are paired up and an explanation is given of how they would work together, what they don't like about each other, and how they affect change in the other. The perfect recipe for conflict, black moment and resolution!

I knew right away that my heroine was a nurturer, but I hadn't fully decided on my hero. So I read how the nurturer paired up with each hero archetype and BAM! like a lightening bolt it was clear. He's the chief. The way those two archetypes interact is exactly what I envisioned for my story. The warrior was a close second, but not quite there. We'll save him for another book and another heroine archetype.

This book spurred a flurry of little notes about my hero and heroine that I now have in a character brainstorming document. I'm going to understand them before I do any more thinking on my plot. Dang it!

Do you ever use archetypes in your writing? Any success? Good resources to share with the rest of us?


Elisabeth Naughton said...

So glad you're excited about your new book, Lisa!!

I never used Tami Cowden's archetypes before but I did with my new paranormal series - but only after the first book was written. I have 7 (8) very different guys and I needed to delineate one from the other. The archetypes really helped. I now have a file with each argonaut's archetype, a picture of someone who closely fits his "look", descriptions of the hero he's descended from, what his special power is and what his weakness is.

It's been a HUGE help for me keeping my guys straight.

Alice Sharpe said...

Lisa, if I could call up that little icon that wears the party hat and blows the curly thing, I would. Good for you!!!

I guess I haven't thought about archetypes, but now that I see what it's done for you, I'm going to order a copy of Tami Cowden's book for my very own. I don't know how I come up with characters so that should probably be an indication that it wouldn't hurt to see how other people do it.

I'm so excited for you!!!!

Bethany Gabbert said...

I think I need that book! Isn't it refreshing to let go of a manuscript that just isn't working for you? I felt so free once I decided to let go of my last one. I can't wait to hear about your new idea. What subgenre is it? Give us a little teaser?

Karen Duvall said...

Hey, Lisa, bravo on getting started on a totally new project. You know you can always go back to the other book later if you want.

I have Tammy's book and it is a great resource. I used to see Tammy at the Colorado Gold every year, but she's been MIA for quite a while now. I wonder what she's up to.

I'm working on a new book that's more character-driven than plot-driven so the conflict is derived more from their diverse relationships than from their reactions events surrounding the plot. This is new for me, so I'm where you are in the character development stage. I found some useful information on Holly Lisle's website

Paty Jager said...

Congrats on moving forward, Lisa!

This summer while listening to the 2008 National conference workshops I learned of two different resources for archetypes. The one that made sense to me was by Laurie Schnebly Campbell. It's called enneagrams. You can read all about them on her website under character flaws, I believe. I've been adding one a week to my Friday blog. This is the first one that spells it out and makes sense to me. Not only do you give your character a main type from reading what the types are like, you also draw from the one before and after to make them well rounded and they also have another three factors that help to complete the character and find the perfect conflict character.

The other one was Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs" which as you can probably tell deals with astrology.

Lisa Leoni said...

Eli, I love that your heroes are based on the archetypes. It makes perfect sense - Greek heroes, Greek-based archetypes ;) I think I need to see your matchups of heroes to actors!

Alice, thanks!! It's a nice reference book to have around, at least for giving some ideas on how personality traits work together.

Bethany, I'm so non-observant. How long have you been on here as Bethany instead of Wavy with your comments? I need to watch the details! :) It is refreshing a bit...but I'm not super happy about it yet. Sort of realized I've been involved with RWA for almost four years and still havent' finished a full book. It kills me to think of how many books I could have written by now and how much of a better writer I could be. Oh well.

The book is paranormal and the start of a cryptozoology series. I've been tossing the idea around for a long time, I'm stoked! :)

Karen, thanks! I appreciate that link, there is some awesome stuff on there!

Paty, thanks for the link! I love the sun signs books - I have had those. It just takes a while to choose a sun sign, but the info on compatibility is so thorough. And they give a lot of great suggestions. Thanks for reminding me about those! :)

Kendra said...

This book is on my desk. I love it! I usually have an idea of the type of person I want my hero or heroine to be. The book helps me nail down specifics and guides me in the direction of the conflict.

Lisa Leoni said...

Kendra, well said! It's great for that. :)

Genene Valleau said...

Glad you're zooming on your new story idea, Lisa!

I don't have Tami's book, but it sounds like a good one.

Also, if any of you are on the AskAnAuthorPro loop, Laurie Schnebly Campbell is the next featured author, though talking about stereotypes (not enneagrams). Laurie is a wonderful resource. She judged a contest I entered years ago and was sooo helpful.

I also use astrology books to help develop my characters, though it sounds like Tami's book might make character development a bit faster.

So glad you're excited about your new story!

Deborah Wright said...

Yay for being excited about a new project!

The Hero/Heroine Archetypes book us great. The pairings are extremely helpful, as are the examples presented from movies/tv. My characters tend to be more a blend, rather than a single type, so I really love that part of the book.

Lisa Leoni said...

Genene, great tip! Thanks, I'll have to sign on for that :)

Debbie, I agree. It is nice to have the blend and watch films to get examples on what to pick and choose from.

Love this book!