Thursday, October 30, 2008

Character Origins

Inspired by Lisa Shearin's post today, I thought I'd write about how I thought up my characters.

Abriel is almost seven feet tall, but I actually thought of her after encountering a little person. He was an engineer at a job that I once worked at, and I used to watch him in a gaggle of other engineers, trekking from one end of a quarter-mile long hallway (not kidding) to the other, and keeping up despite his short legs.

It occurred to me that I could remember every encounter with a little person that I ever had. Think about it. They're that rare. Since George R. R. Martin had already come up with Tyrion Lannister (my favorite character in that series, by the way), I decided to go to the other extreme. Abriel has a condition called Gigantism, where she does not stop growing. Andre the Giant had the same condition.

I test-drove Abriel as a character during a role-playing session with my husband. The original Abriel was extremely promiscuous. That was one feature that I didn't keep when I transfered her from the game to the novel.

Tory--or Victoria--was actually born as a character during another role-playing game years ago. Tory's origin character was a super-hero named Elizabeth Lawrence. I played Liz with a very outgoing, gregarious personality who made friends with everyone. This sometimes bit her in the butt. When I came up with the Starcaster world, I realized that this was the perfect role for Liz, except I wanted her to be named Victoria, after my daughter. (My daugher, with her baby-talk, gave me the idea for Starcaster.) I kept Liz's last name as a sort of template to help me glue her character in my mind.

Tory evovled to be very different from Liz. Liz could kick butt and was a mental fortress. Tory is almost pure thief with the personality of a morning news anchor.

I'll do the guys in another post. If you write, did you come up with your characters?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Protag vs. Protag

Just for fun, I decided to illustrate how extreme I get with my protagonists. I admit that after writing about Abriel, I decided that I needed to write about someone completely different. Here's how Abriel and Tory stack up:

Size - Abriel is 6'9" and weighs 200+ pounds. She is noticed and pointed at wherever she goes. Tory is 5:4" and weighs about 120 pounds. She blends in.
Skin - Abriel has the dark skin and hair texture of a middle-easterner. Tory is white.
Passion - Abriel doesn't hesitate to take an attractive man to her bed. Tory is a virgin.
Kick-assitude - Abril is a trained warrior, and does not hesitate to meet conflict head-on. Tory hides or runs away. However, she's a good shot with her pistol and thinks fast on her feet to escape dangerous situations. Neither have much of an attitude.
Strength - Abriel is stronger than most women, but is not as strong as a strong man. Tory is weak, even for a woman.
Stealth - Tory's specialty is stealth and she's as graceful as a dancer. Abriel makes few attempts to be stealthy, although she manages to do so at least once.
Personality - Tory wins people over through her charm and vibrant personality. Abriel wins people over through her presance, and when she can't win them over, she kicks their ass.

As for my next protagonist? He's a guy.

Progress: Nowhere!

Ugh! I got sick last Saturday and I'm still sick! I have gotten absolutely nowhere with my book or with any of my writing. My self-imposed deadline of starting to query by November 1st is beginning to look a bit tight.

I did manage to print my novel today, in preparation for my final read-through and polish. Now that my cough has quietened down, I'll be able to read it aloud. My husband offered to read it for me (what a nice guy!), but I need to read it with my red pen at the ready, and it would be too cumbersome to pass the manuscript back and forth while he reads. Besides, my perpetually upset stomach probably would not let me read under optimal conditions.

The semi-finished novel is 92,000 words. I can't think of anything else I want to do with it. It really feels done, except for the tweaks I will undoubtedly make following this read-through. I've begun thinking about the next book in the series, but I'm not ready to start writing. I have my Neo loaded with some potential projects, such as my second fairy-tale retelling (an action-packed Snow White), my Christian thriller and my Hollywood romance.

We'll see what lights my fire.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finished With Feedback

I'm done! Well, with my beta readers' feedback, that is. My next step is to tidy up four small plot problems. Next, I'll re-read the new scenes that I added over the past three weeks. Then, I'll print it out again and read it to my husband.

Reading aloud is crucial, I think. Besides, my husband has only read a very rough rough draft. He wants to hear what I've changed. Of course, he's perfectly capable of reading it on his own, but I read for two reasons:
  • It really helps me if I can hear the story spoken aloud.
  • I often find more problems if I can see the hardcopy.
Besides, my mother wants to read the novel, so I'll be able to send it to her and let her pass it around when she is finished with it. I can think of at least two sisters that will read it. But by then, I'll be querying. I really want to start querying by November first. That will give me six weeks before the December break. And come January, I'll be at the top of the queue for those agents who take a while getting through their query stack.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shout-Outs and Something Fun

Wow! 333 pages of manuscript (in 12 point font) times three beta readers equals 999 pages of feedback to go through. And since I'm at the halfway point of the second manuscript, I thought I'd send a shout-out to my readers.
  • Kristin read both of my novels. She enjoyed Forging a Legend, but I think she liked Starcaster better. Her feedback was much more enthusiastic. Kristin is a relentless grammar Nazi and has a profound love for the serial comma. She marked up my manuscript with gusto.
  • Lisa also read both my novels. I think she liked Forging a Legend better. She made all these comparisons to well-known authors that makes me blush to think about. Lisa has an eagle-eye for potential plot knots, and is making me do a lot of thinking!
  • Katie is my newest beta reader. Katie has the neatest handwriting I have ever seen, and she had an eye for stuff that didn't make sense. For about the first third of the novel, she also wrote her reaction to what was going on, which were really fun to read.
Thanks everyone! With all the feedback I now have two new scenes (Sam and Robert's story, plus a raid of the place where they manufactured the umbrellas), plus one scene where I switched characters (Reba chews out Tory at the banquet, instead of Bradburn). And I'm up to 92,000 words! And still going!

* * *

As I was going through my files in my Starcaster folder, I found something fun. I have this concept in my novel of something I call the identity chit. It's similar to a military dog tag, but it's bigger. Since my novel takes place in an era equivalent to about 1810, there was no photography and I had to think of a way to be able to identify oneself to other government entities.

Well, I found a Word file with some identity chits that I wrote out and forgot about! I took a screenshot of them because they won't paste properly in Blogger.

The top two lines has the operative's name, his or her Corps, year that current term started, sex, height, weight in stones, hair and eye color and date of birth.

The description is meant to be read from left to right, while skipping over the empty space in the middle. The empty space is supposed to be where a silhouette is cut out of the metal. It's meant to go into a projector and compared with the person that it's supposed to identify. (More often, the viewer would simply look at the profile and see if it matches.) Maybe one day I'll attempt to draw the silhouettes.

The beta readers will probably be able to guess where Cecil got his bite scar.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sharing the Thrill

Jenwriter has an agent! Check out her leap of euphoria! Congrats, Jen!

The Antidote for Waiting

While waiting for my marked-up manuscripts to get back to me, I've been a bit restless. I was working on my query for a while, but I decided that sort of job needs to be done when I'm doing the final polish. My muse didn't hit me with any new short stories, but I did get a couple of sentences that might start one someday:

She was a plump housewife with three small children and a sick husband--so what was she doing going out to fight trolls?

Because, she mused as she clutched the ancient family shortsword, I have three small children and a sick husband.

And that's it! That's all I have. And it has a dreadful cliche with the trolls.

So anyway, I decided that the best way to conquer my waiting doldrums is to package up and send off a short story. Therefore, "Petroleum Sunset" (the new title of my hick science fiction) is now on my side table, waiting to embark on its journey to Asimov's.

I hope it does better on its journey than the copy of Starcaster that Lisa tried to send back to me. Check out the tracking history:

Processed, October 09, 2008, 2:27 am, JACKSONVILLE, FL 32099
Processed, October 06, 2008, 3:17 pm, CAPITOL HEIGHTS, MD 20790
Processed, October 04, 2008, 9:48 pm, JACKSONVILLE, FL 32099
Processed, October 01, 2008, 8:00 pm, SPRINGFIELD, MA 01152
Acceptance, September 29, 2008, 12:33 pm, STOW, MA 01775

So it came to Jacksonville, wandered north, then came back south again. What on earth?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Happy Reader - Again!

After she finished reading Starcaster, Lisa Nevin demanded more! So I sent her an e-copy of Forging a Legend. I'm thrilled with what she had to say! Plus, she read the first three chapters of the second book in the series.

She really has fired me up to get querying again, but I'm also thinking about submitting to those few major publishers who take unsolicited subs. That way, I can just plunk it in the mail and forget about it for nine months while I write another book.

Any advice? I've already queried 52 agents for it (some of them twice).