Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Glory of Stubborn Characters

Salva, I have decided, is as stubborn as Aurelia, in his own way. This is, of course, rather inconvenient at times.

But it is also, I think, imperative.

You see stubborn characters defy logic.

“So what if 99.8% of the manuscripts authors submit never get published,” they say. “This is not going to happen with mine!” And “Who cares what that reviewer thinks? If I was really one-dimensional, would I have given you such a hard time figuring out why I was refusing to do what you asked me to do?” And “Honestly, the toxic skeptics are wrong! This is my story. I’m telling you it’s important.”

Thank goodness for stubborn characters. If it weren’t for them, how would one manage? How would authors ever find the time to sit down and write?

When there are so many more pressing tasks—like grading papers or mowing the lawn or washing dishes.

If it weren’t for our characters’ demands, would we ever agonize our way through synopsis and outlines--not to mention query and cover letters?

Would we ever dare to tell the truth? Or something new? Or something that appears to be familiar, but isn’t at all because our characters have wreaked havoc on the stereotype?

How would authors ever live out their dreams?

If they didn’t have someone insisting, “Wake up! It’s time! It’s my day! If you dare roll over and close your eyes, I’ll clobber you with a scene involving three hundred versions of the same pronoun.”

“All right, all right!” you say. “I’m up. And I’ll tell your story.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Top 10 Reasons an Author Should Have a Cat

10. When the author is in the middle of a writing epiphany, she can be meowed at as a reminder of the far more significant necessity of providing dinner.

9. When the author is tormented by a particularly complex writing problem, said cat can fail to come home on time, therefore making her human very nervous and unable to resolve any writing problems whatsoever.

8. When the author is trying to avoid extra distractions, she can be compelled to defurr the keyboard.

7. When the author is finally about to complete a draft at 3:00 a.m., said cat can sit directly in front of the computer screen, making the completion of the draft impossible.

6. When the author is trying to meet a scary deadline, she can have a paw with thinly veiled claws tap her on the head repeatedly and inform her that she is taking her work too seriously.

5. When the author must read the same page aloud forty times before it is perfect, said cat can sit tolerantly beside her without griping.

4. When the author has an epiphany in the middle of the night, turns on the light bulb, and begins scribbling, said cat can provide support by yawning, closing her eyes, and continuing to sleep.

3. When the author is forced to write a long cold scene set in the midst of space, said cat can curl up on her feet as a perfect foot-warmer.

2. When the author’s noisy, opinionated, and stubborn main characters refuse to speak to her, said cat remains close and reminds her that she is never alone.

1. When the author finds out spectacular writing news, said cat allows her human to scoop her up and celebrate!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Magic Answer

Aurelia: You haven’t blogged this week.

Me: I know. I know. What would you like me to blog about?

Aurelia: What have you been doing?

Me: Cleaning my house. It was a disaster.

Aurelia: You did not start cleaning until today.

Me: Sigh. True. I was also writing story ideas.

Aurelia: That sounds fun. Let’s talk about those.

Me: It’s a tad early to—

Aurelia: Then let’s talk about how you get ideas. People always want to know that.

Me: Ummm, it’s always different.

Aurelia: For example?

Me: Well, you introduced yourself by griping about an itching ankle.

Aurelia: It was driving me crazy.

Me: And Aerin was standing in that compartment on the spaceship, removing her headband and contemplating whether she could wash away her past as easily as she had scrubbed the dirt from her bare feet.

Aurelia: That scene is posted on the excerpt page of your website:

Me: Mmhm.

Aurelia: And Salva?

Me: Oh, he was checking out the pretty girl on the church steps.

Aurelia: You mean Pepe was checking her out.

Me: You’ve been talking to a biased source.

Aurelia: Ha! OK, so these new ideas you were writing this weekend. Where did they all come from?

Me: Alexandra was hiding under the steps during a barbecue. Anna was walking in the powdery dust while collecting water from the spring. Ecaterina was peering down a cliff and thinking about hurling a clay pitcher over the edge.

Aurelia: She sounds interesting.

Me: And Miranda. Well—the idea for Miranda’s story comes out of three months of directing twelve-year-olds in a play.

Aurelia: That cannot be worth it.

Me: You asked.

Aurelia: I suppose I did. So . . . what you’re really saying is there is no magical way to come up with ideas.

Me: The best way is to sit down with a pad of paper and start writing.

Aurelia: But that’s so BORING!

Me: That’s why I’m the author, and you’re not.

Aurelia: Point taken.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Brainstorming (aka Why One Should Listen to One's Main Character)

Me: Hola, Salva.

Salva: Hi.

Me: It’s good to hear from you.

Salva: You know perfectly well why you haven’t been hearing from me.

Me: Yes, well, our followers don’t. So . . . let’s not mention that OK.

Salva: I’m not stupid.

Me: No, but maybe a bit defensive.

Salva: Maybe.

Me: Look, I need your help.

Salva: You should probably ask Beth.

Me: I’m asking you.

Salva: (sigh) All right. ¿QuĂ© es?

Me: I'm moderating a panel for Wordstock in the first week of October, and I’m supposed to create the questions. It’s a panel on writing realistic young adult fiction.

Salva: Uh-huh.

Me: And I need some assistance coming up with questions.

Salva: You’re sure you don’t want to ask Beth?

Me: I’m asking you.

Salva: OK. So there’s your standard: “Why did you choose to write a contemporary novel?”

Me: Because you told me I had to.

Salva: I thought we were brainstorming questions, not answers.

Me: Right.

Salva: And what are the challenges of writing contemporary fiction?

Me: You mean like your refusing to go home.

Salva: Yes. Like that. And you can’t blame me; can you?

Me: I suppose not.

Salva: And what is the best thing about writing realistic fiction?

Me: Hmm.

Salva: You’re thinking we should ask Beth for help.

Me: Yeah, sort of.

Salva: Beth?

Beth: You should ask “How do the challenges of writing contemporary fiction differ from the challenges of writing other genres such as fantasy, historical fiction, or sci-fi?” and “How do you balance the need to create a real world while remaining within the fictional realm?” and “Do you think the impact of a contemporary novel is more immediate than that of other genres because of the immediacy of the time period?” and “What are your favorite contemporary novels by other YA authors?” and “What drew you toward writing contemporary fiction in the first place?”

Me: Gracias, Beth.

Beth: You’re welcome.

Salva: (grinning) You see?

Me: OK, you were right.

Salva: Claro.

Me: So, readers, any other ideas?