Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNo Day Twenty-Something, "Motivate Me!"

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: NaNoWriMo 2009
Status: 13,258 words

Don't panic! That isn't me asking for your help (although, now that you mention it...wait, what?). Ahem, as I was saying, that's not me asking for your help. Oh, no. That's the sound of the characters in my head yelling at me.

In the past few days my characters have turned into whiny method actors, nitpicking every scene. Now it's, "What's my motivation here?", and "My character wouldn't do that!" I mean, really, you get boxed in a corner and throw in one lousy exploding llama* and it's all, "Now you're just making stuff up!".

You think they'd be grateful for their shot at starring in a novel. But are they? Nope, not them. I can hear them whispering in the back of my head. Occasionally a word or phrase will be clear: "...want script approval...too much coincidence...go on strike..." It's a nasty business.


I'll admit I've struggled with a couple of problem areas. The first is having too many things happen by coincidence. I don't want to write one of those books. You know the kind of book I'm talking about, where things happen just when they need to. Not as a natural consequence of a character's actions, but just because, well, the author needed something to happen and, hey, coincidences occur all the time, don't they? Not in my book, they won't! Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. It's so alluring, you know? When you've written yourself into a corner and there's an easy way out--why not take it? I now understand that temptation.

The second area I've struggled with is, yes, character motivation--the smaller, scene by scene motivations, not the big, this is my character's inner conflict motivation stuff. I mean, I tried to get my heroine to voluntarily walk through the interdimensional portal to an unknown fate, I really did. I told her her father was probably trapped on the other side somewhere. She didn't buy it. Said she was too smart to just assume stuff like that without a lot more proof and some hint of what she'd face--oh, and a means of, you know, returning! Fine, I said, I'll just have the damn device overload while you're fiddling with it and toss you across the portal (if you won't go voluntarily...). We bickered back and forth about the difference between an inciting incident and one huge coincidence (and somewhere in there is where the llama exploded). It wasn't pretty.

Come to think of it, maybe it's just one problem--too much coincidence!

We've come to a tentative agreement, my characters and I. I've promised to examine the motivation I give them in every scene and they've promised to stop yelling at me, at least until we get to revision. However, they've made it clear that if I throw in one more exploding llama* they won't be responsible for their actions.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself tempted to let something happen by coincidence in your plot? How do you resist?

*No llamas were exploded in the process of writing this post.


Piper Lee said...

ROFLMAO!! Okay, all I can picture the whole time I'm reading your post is bloody chunks of llamma meat all over the place! Yeah, I get a little visual about some things. ((shudder))

I don't think I've written in any "coincidence" into my WIP, yet. But, you can bet I'll be going back through to check now!

Thanks for the laugh, the visual, and the heads-up, Debbie. And, my poor dear, good luck with those bossy, pain-in-the-butt characters nagging you. (hug)

Alice Sharpe said...

LOL, Debbie, you should be writing comedy. That was hilarious.

Ah, recalcitrant heroines. This is how I handle them. I remind them that they want/love/hate/need someone/something more than anything in the world and they will do whatever, Whatever, WHATEVER it takes to get/accomplish/save that person/ideal/llama.

Jump in a fire? If there's a baby in there, you betcha, oh worthy one, and no thanks, no overtime or hazard pay, I'm a heroine. My father is on the other side of the portal? I've never met him? I've never seen him? I thought he was lost and gone forever? He can't come back unless someone with his DNA is with him? (Stop snickering, that was just an example -- I don't write this brainy stuff, you do.) I'm stepping forward, we'll worry about how to get back later. Her being motivated to get into the portal is WAY easier than explaining why the machine broke when she was tinkering with it unless she was tinkering with it because it was broken and she fixed it, but oops, it finished an interrupted cycle and sucked her inside. (I can your incredulous guffawing again. Stop it.)

When my dh helps me, he often suggests something that would be a very big coincidence. They make me cringe, too. I try to provide a logical, cohesive reason for every action/reaction.

Oh, and thanks for the image of the exploding llama.


Genene Valleau said...

Exploding llamas? Glad you added the disclaimer at the end. LOL!

Coincidence? Not me! As you said, I hopefully catch all those nasty little things in the editing process.

Problem is, this is a case of real life being more unbelievable than fiction. I have so many "coincidences" happen in my life--with split second timing, mind you--that I realized long ago, there are no coincidences. All that happens is part of an intricate universal plan.

Unfortunately, that's not good enough in fiction. Your screaming characters are right, you have to make up--I mean, show--motivation. Unless, of course, you lay the groundwork for the "coincidence" previously. I mean, the device might have been showing signs of being unstable in previous scenes, so when it overloads and tosses her across the portal, that would be purely logical. Wouldn't it?

By the way, lotsa luck controlling those characters and cleaning up the mess from the explosion...

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Ack! Coincidences. Now I'm going to go back through the wip and make sure I don't have any glaring at me. It DOES happen and like you it drives me bonkers when I realize I've written them in.

Love the exploding llama. Now there's a visual.

And ah, the portal from hell. I have one of those too. In MARKED I needed to get the heroine to the other side as well, only she was WAY too smart to fall for the "father is ill on the other side and needs you" card. (Sometimes I really hate smart heroines.) In my world she had to willingly go across with someone from that dimension, and since she kept snubbing her nose at my attempts, I finally went around her and figured out how to get her there without her help. I think she fell out of a very tall tree, lapsed in and out of consciousness (hey, I have experience in that area) and in a state of delirium agreed to go across. (Note to heroines: if you will not cooperate, I WILL hurt you.)

Twisted? Only slightly. But not nearly as twisted as an exploding llama.

Love your post, Debbie!!!

Paty Jager said...

Never have liked them strange looking animals. LOL

I had some of the same problem trying to finish the sisters story. I didn't use coincidence so much as nature. Sometimes nature can be used to your advantage. And I hope it doesn't look like a coincidence.

Good luck, Debbie.

Katie said...

Quote: Note to heroines: If you do not cooperate, I WILL hurt you.

*spasms of laughter* Remind me to never star in one of your books, Elisabeth! ;)

Ooh, llamas! I want to explode one now... or a walrus. I think a walrus would be SO epic to explode! *rubs hands together*

Coincidence is another writing rule? Wow, I'm learning so much! ^_^ I don't really use coincidence, so I guess that's good. And kind of a relief, seeing as it's BAD. But I understand your problem, Debbie. Them characters ain't no dummies and there ain't NO way she's goin' in that thing. Details are a pain. But you can go back and plan in the little goblin guy who pushes her into the magical portal. Or would there be reason for her to be yanked in by someone on the other side? Maybe her little dog ToTo ran in! That's a good one. Use that one! LOL

Then there's always Elisabeth's way...

wavybrains said...

You mean it CAN'T all happen by coincidence? Damn. There goes tomorrow's blog post on "How I Bend Zee Characters to My Will In One Easy Step."

Sigh. Seriously, I struggle with this too, and I'm struggling with this big time right now and it's why I'm blocked so badly on this one scene.

Me: You HAVE to help him. Grant can't get Lucia without your help. You're the missing link!
Ashley: NO. I don't even like him.
Me: PLEASE. He's going to be your brother soon!
Ashley: See above. Not liking this.
Me: You're integral to the story. See the tempting secondary love story I have cooked up for you . .
Ashley: EWWWWW! Not him.
Me: You'll like him. I swear. It might take a few books . . .
Ashley: GROSS! Also, still not helping.
Me: Ok. What would motivate you?
**Pause while crickets chirp loudly**
Me: Anything? How about you want him to be cooler?
Ashley: I'm not real crazy about him at any temperature.
Me: Revenge?
Ashley: For what? He's a nice guy. I just don't like him. Still have no reason to help him. Off to tan now. BBL.
**Me banging head into notepad for the last week.***

Thanks for an awesome post!

Lisa Leoni said...

Hahahaha! I'm visualizing the same thing as Piper :) This was a hilarious post! And I got nothing in the way of motivation, but I like what everyone else has said :)