Thursday, September 15, 2011

Know Thyself (and, um, your character)

The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

I just started reading Noah Lukeman's THE PLOT THICKENS: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life, and was much encouraged when multi-published regency romance author Sarah M. Eden mentioned she owns, loves, and more importantly, uses the book!

So I'm reading it, and the very beginning is rough because it has all these characterization questions to ask yourself, and that just makes me want to put the book down and write. I think maybe I should be taking copious notes while I read it.

Lukeman, a literary agent, suggests looking at your character through a series of lenses:

- like an eye witness describing the character to a police sketch artist
- like a doctor asking his patient for personal history
- like a banker considering the applicant for a loan

There's much more than just that, but it basically ends with you knowing more about your character than you know about your own mother. Which is cool. And I can see this type of method really helping me out with my problem.

My problem: If I don't outline, I get lost. If I do outline, my characters surprise me with revelations, making me feel like I just married someone I don't even know (and basically ruining my next plot point).

I can imagine, however, that if I filled out this sort of questionaire about my main characters - made it so detailed that it inspired the plot, which is kind of the point of a character-driven tale - then I wouldn't have to deal with surprises that derail me into that dreaded black forest of crap-manuscript.

I'm excited to read more of this book. I think I'll be learning a lot as Noah Lukeman guides me through characterization to plot points to the all-important hero's journey. Plot has been my downfall for far too long. It feels good to be studying it at last.

Now you know my weaknesses in writing. What have you learned in your writing journey this week?

(p.s. I'm over at Operation Awesome today talking about bite-sized goals.)


  1. Great post, as always! One thing I'm trying to get better at is setting goals. Not the 'I want to get an agent' goals--specific goals. "I'm going to write X words today" or "I'm going to send out X queries". Putting the numbers in there really helps me to actually do them, instead of just think about doing them.

  2. Great post, Katrina - and thank you for the book recommendation! It sounds really interesting!

    What I've learned about my writing... hmm. Well, I just started rewrites on Monday, and I think I'm just now easing myself into it. I pushed myself through the new opening at first and wasn't happy with it, but when I took a little break last night, everything just organized itself in my head. I'm going to rewrite a lot of what I did, but I'm feeling much better about it. So I learned that it's good sometimes just to relax and let things come to me.

  3. Characters are so important to driving the plot. I need to read that book so I can do better. Characterization is one thing I'm striving to improve on. Thanks for the tips!

  4. I've always struggled with voice, but now I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it. Takes a lot of practice!

  5. This week has been a time for me to reflect on my progress and look ahead to nano. I have always had a strong writing voice, but little structure. I am still learning how to balance the two out.

    One way I am doing that is to make sure I really know my characters and allow them to go places that I hadn't originally planned.


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