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Friday, July 29, 2011

The First Word

I conquer writers block before it even starts.  I call it "Writers get up and go".  I sit at my desk, in front of the big white sheet of MS Word and I'm confronted with the start of the writing time.
Microsoft Office Word 2007Image via Wikipedia       Scary huh?
Now what?

I start by typing the first words that come to mind,  Tey might have nothing to do with the story, the topic, they might be misspelled and they might be complete gibberish.

And that's all OK.

The pointis to get the fingers moving, get the mind working ahead of the fingers so that you are actually writing something, anything. You can delete those first lines later, the point now is to get you going. Once you're in motion, you'll stay in motion and not stop until you're done with this session or your fingers fall off.  Don't laugh, that's happened to me.

How do you know when to turn off the gibberish?  In the back of your mind the story is running.  The characters are talking, the story is moving forward.  What we're doing by typing the first thing that comes to mind, is reestablishing the connection between your story, your conscience mind and your fingers. 

Sometimes the story just forces the issue and your fingers can't move fast enough.  Sometimes the meeting needs to be started from your fingers and work the path back to the story.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Stan Lee Approach to Characters

Stan LeeAs I start on my next writing project, I know my main character.  I know what he likes, strawberry not chocolate ice cream, and what scares him, spiders. I could go on and on about his likes and dislikes.  I could talk for hours on his family and what motivates him to pursue his career.

I know ALL of that and I'll bet that less than 1% of it will actually make it into the book. As I am writing the background to the characters in the book, I take the Stan Lee Approach.  I'm sure you recognize the name, he created or co-created many of the iconic comic book characters that are being made into movies.  If you look at them, Spiderman, Iron Man and the like, they have amazing powers, and amazing faults.

We don't love characters that have no flaws.  We want to be able to relate to them and the all-good, no-bad type character is something we just can't make a connection with. 

Having said that, the bad can't be TOO bad. There are exceptions of course, Dexter comes to mind for one, but exceptions prove the rule.  I can't have my main character, who I want the audience to love, also be the murder that is put away for many years.  As a side note, that's now how you build a strong series of books either.

When creating a new facet to the character, I weigh it.  How "good" is it?  And of course, how "bad" is it?

Then I match it up with something from the other column.  There has to be a balance between the two.  That's not to imply it has to be a 1-1 balance.  But too much good or too much bad is not going to bea character I want either.  Notice I'm not making a distinction between the good characters and the bad characters in my story.  I go through the same process for both.

So, put your characters through the "good" and "bad" test, see where they fall.


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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Are writers type-cast?

Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. Watson. Fr...Image via Wikipedia
As I contemplate a new story, I wonder if I have to guide my imagination to stay within the murder mystery genre.  Or, as I prefer, can I write and publish whatever I darn well please?

What brings me to this fork in the road is the simple fact that I just came up with something that is not a murder mystery at all, but makes me do that smile.  I'm sure you know what I mean by that.  The smile that says that in your heart, you know it's a really good idea.  Because really, if you don't excited about the idea for the story when you first think of it, will the reader months later? 

If you accept the idea that we end up with better stories if we feel passionate about them, then why must I be labeled a mystery writer? As much as I enjoy thinking of new ways to kill people, I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life doing that.

It has LONG been a Hollywood curse, get on a successful TV show or a hit movie, and forget getting a job later as that's how you'll be known the rest of your life.  Are there exceptions? A few, but it was always a struggle.  Think of Jim Carey as both a comic actor and a serious actor. He's just the most recent example.  Who would have thought of Michael Keaton, from Mr Mom, to play the part of Batman?  And so here I am GP Aldrich, mystery writer, saying that I think I have a very different idea for a novel where... no one dies.

If I am type cast as a murder mystery writer, I better be allowed to throw in fluffy bunnies from time to time. Trust me when I say, I can write a murder mystery that involves fluffy bunnies.

I think if I could pick a pigeon hole for myself, I'd like to pick: "Deep plot, good strong characters, well told story", and that be it. No further describers.  Nothing that will stop you from picking up my book before you read what the story is about. Don't let the fluffy bunny on the cover stop you. Give me the chance to stretch the type of fiction you like, while I stretch my writing legs.

What do you think, are you type cast?