Thursday, December 5, 2013
When Story Characters are in limbo - throw them a party
If you’re a writer like me, you have stories and characters moving in and out of your mind every second and all screaming for attention. But what do you do when they are all wanting attention like spoiled children? How can you satisfy them all at once? Throw them a party.
Yes you heard me right throw your characters of all your stories a party. Put them in one big room and let them loose. That’s what I did with mine, well still doing. I have at least 30 stories only two are complete with the words the end to them which are for sale through Amazon, and two that are going through edits. I call this story, “Character café.”
Now you may wonder how a writer goes about doing something like this – here’s what I did. Because I sometimes write under a pen name I have set up a meeting with "that person" and we are discussing party arrangements such as location, food, music, sitting arrangements,( cause you don’t want bad guys sitting next to impressionable children or call girls next to Christians, that sorta thing), Catering. Try not to leave anything out.
Then you send out invitations inviting them to some big shindig. Tell them they don’t have to bring or do anything except maybe a swimsuit or party dress. Anything they could ever want will be supplied.
If you’re like me some of your characters have been through some things that were death defying, heroic, scary, unnerving, and who knows what else. So you want to show them they matter and are important to you. (If they wouldn’t you wouldn’t be writing about them – right?)
Once the RSVP’s are all in you begin setting up the room and area preparing for the best party ever. Of course you may have to create new characters to take care of the old ones but that’s okay, even they will have fun.
When the party date arrives you and you alter ego (the pen name), if you have one, dress up and position yourselves at the entrance waiting for the first guest to arrive. With everyone there you as a writer begin your job of observing and collecting information about your characters as they interact with each other. It’s amazing what can happen. At this party almost anything goes- except murder… unless you have an unsuspecting party guest you and your guests did not foresee or anticipate.
A writer’s observations and job
Now as a writer not only is your reason for throwing this party to thank your Characters for the stories they are telling, but to see and learn who they are. Who they really are. And the best way to do that, is to just watch.
So grab your favorite beverage and sit back and watch. You may be wondering where you store this new Intel once you have it. Well before the party as you are preparing and creating the invitations you should already have some sort of data base where character background and information is collected if not this is the best place to start. I have the briefest of brief outlines but with each story I get better. By nature I am a collector of office supplies. Binders, folders dividers pens, markers, you name it I have probably bought or drooled over it. Seriously, I am a character in myself. But once you have your materials your data collecting begins.
Whether you use one binder or many is up to you but once you have a binder, you put dividers and plenty of notebook paper in it. Each divider has a story name and the cast of characters in your story. Behind this divider contains story outline, ideas, or anything else specifically just story related. Chapter scenes will be perfect here.
Next each character has their own divider and this will contain Character background information – and there are plenty out there to choose from. Believe me I know. I have several in my reference files. I have several different ones because one may not fit all stories. So if you have a variety you won’t get bored and neither will your character/ readers.
Example of Character template
Name: Claudia Shiply
Nick name Claud
Reason for nick: When she was a kid she used to walk with a heavy foot
Family Father: Fred. Mother Ester
Etc, you get the idea.
You can add anything you want. The choices are endless.
Now what you will be doing and gathering at this party. As your guests interact with each other, they not only learn about themselves and others, they may find inspiration from others that will change their lives and stories. And all you have to do is sit back and watch/listen and record this in your binder.
If you are anything like me, your first draft may not be neat and organized – that’s okay because you can rewrite and fine tune these observations later when its quitter and the party is over.
Examples of dialogue you might hear at the party
Julie table 1 victim of crime:
“You know I didn’t do anything to provoke the attack on my life. I have no idea why I was targeted.
Margo antagonist from table 7:
“It’s those low cut blouses and short skirts you wear dear. They are an invitation for any one. Anyone who hasn’t had any in a while.”
Julie Table 1: “it shouldn’t matter what I wear, no one has the right to force themselves on me.”
Stacy table 4 over hearing this:
“That’s exactly right. Although there are things to better your chances so you are not attacked bottom line no one has the right to touch you unless you agree to it.”
Maybe even Stacy wants to start mentoring young women who have been molested raped or attacked so they are stronger and better equipped to later handle whatever comes their way.
End of dialogue.
From this short conversation you may have learned that maybe Julie has dressed too seductively and didn’t realize how others see her, you may learn that Margo may feel jealous that Julie looks better than her and Margo has to admit she has let herself go…
Maybe your bad guys from the different tables start talking and you uncover ideas for plot twists or ways to foil crimes. The possibilities are endless. And if the ideas don’t work for one reason or another you can adjust them the way you want.
Either way after the party your characters will have come from the farest corners of your mind into the light of day to have fun and won’t feel forgotten while you are working on another story.
I'd love to hear how you keep limbo characters occupied