Motivated characters make for strong stories. A really good way to see this in action comes from two movies I just watched, Thor and Unstoppable.
Thor had a weak story mainly because the most interesting character was Loki. Loki had an axe to grind, something to prove. He was driven. Thor's goal was, um, what? He wanted to be king. Instead, he got exiled for being dumb. Then his goal was to get back his hammer and go home. But failing to get his hammer, he goes off to do other things until a killer robot sent by Loki comes after him. Thor wasn't driving the story, Loki was. Don't get me started on Natalie Portman's character. If she wasn't standing around looking pretty, she was running over Thor in the vehicle she obviously wasn't capable of driving. She could've been a strong character, but when rescuing Thor from Shield is called for, it's the man in her group that does it, not her.
By contrast, Unstoppable had the main characters actually doing something to drive their own story. Two men are off on a routine day of work when their lives collide with a runaway train. They make conscious choices to sacrifice themselves and go after it. With characters like that, Unstoppable suits its name. The female character we see most of is fighting like crazy from a distance to limit damage and help our heroes stop the train; very active and strong. Every character in the story had a goal they pursued and as a result, the story engine ran to the end.
Having trouble with your story? Look for the goals. What does your character want? Every character in the story should want something and succeed or fail in getting it. It's summed up in the best story advice I've ever come across: "Your protagonist should protag."
The sequence of events:
Me: What do you want for your snack?
Child: A banana.
Me: *insert banana into backpack*
Papers sorted from backpack. Did not search for rogue banana, because why would I?
backpack lurked by door
backpack lurked by door
Me: What do you want for your snack?
Child: Cheddar bunnies.
Me: *insert package of Annie's Cheddar bunnies into backpack*
Child: *sob sob* There was a banana at the bottom of my backpack and it mooshed all over everything!
Me:...The banana you asked for? On Friday?
In conclusion: Bananas are dangerous. Or possibly, when your child makes a healthy snack choice, it's just a way of getting out the house where she can try to score Cheetohs.
Why yes, another 5 things post. Because yesterday was 17 hours of child care (thank you, growth spurt!) and I'm a zombie.
1. Via Kris Reisz, possibly the coolest hallucination made reality I've ever seen or heard of. And now there's a new destination on my travel wish list.
2. Via PBW, who is your go-to author for soul balm? I am still pondering this. Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse, Lois McMaster Bujold, probably. Mostly it just makes me aware that I want to write soul balm, but that's a tall order.
3. I'm amazed at how many of you think I should be in journalism, and not the tabloid variety, either.
4. I'm still working out my writing schedule. See 17 hours of child care above. There are times when a day isn't shorter but is less demanding, so I'm trying to figure out the balance.
5. Enjoying this end of summer burst of sunshine and beautiful weather. The winter wet will begin soon enough.
There's this current debacle going on at home involving us and
the hospital and the
insurance company. The insurance company, after happily processing all submitted bills related to maternity care, suddenly, when faced with The Whopper (i.e. hospitalization and the actual delivery and birth) said, "hold on, we think this is pre-existing. If it's pre-existing, we don't have to pay." And we looked at the portion they said we'd have to pay and I had to put my head between my knees and breathe into a paper bag. There have been phone calls to the insurance company and to the hospital and conference calls and more breathing into paper bags, and looking at the Unpaid Total and wanting to weep.
And so in despair I flipped open
the local newspaper to the classifieds and saw, lit with a celestial glow, an ad for...A WRITER. Full time. With benefits. Hello. I'm a writer. Okay, my last journalism experience happened in high school and they probably would want me to report on the Wooden Boat Festival without adding colorful alien invasions or Bigfoot sightings to make things more interesting. But it's an actual job I'm almost sort of qualified for. With benefits. As long as hard-hitting journalism consisting of "why does the border patrol care about the Port Angeles Farmer's Market? Obama loves organic vegetables,"doesn't make the editor weep and say I'm not supposed to be writing opinion pieces. Or fiction.
See, as soon as I thought about it, I thought about how I would actually do this job, and really, I had to ask: would I hire me? Because these are the things I think about the local news: that sea lion on Highway 101, was it drunk at the time it decided to go for a walk and then resist arrest? The salal harvest permit number, was it arrived at after taking environmental impact factors into consideration, and by that I mean, the possibility of loss of habitat for Bigfoot resulting in more Jefferson County Bigfoot sightings?
Honestly, I'm not sure I'd hire me. But I'm really entertaining myself thinking about what I could bring to local journalism.
Today was a landmark day; we dropped off two kids for school. This means my days from approximately 8-3 are for working, alongside baby tending. Yay!
So it's back to the books for me. My to do list triage started yesterday. I had wanted to finish several things before going off to maternity leave but due to complications it didn't happen. My plan: writing in the mornings and editing/business stuff in the afternoons. I have multiple projects in various stages of completion and now it is time to start completing.
The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance is officially out in the US! Look for it in bookstores everywhere, and check out my contribution, Wolf at the Door. This is set in the same world as Wolf in Cheap Clothing and Wolf in Shining Armor, and unless I get a wild hair, that's probably the end of the series. I'll be focusing on the Neuri and Shadow Guardians for things furry.
2. I've gotten behind on blogging about Walk on the Wild Side, but Saskia Walker released Play for Today on the 15th. Saskia also has a story in The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, so you can check her out both places.
3. Fabulous UF author Rob Thurman was injured in a car accident and has been in ICU since. The best thing we can all do to support Rob is to buy her books, so if you've been thinking of picking up one of hers, now is a great time.
4. In the Other People's Books theme, I picked up several books by Georgette Heyer, currently on sale for anywhere from. 99 to $1.99 via Sourcebooks. I tried one first and it turned out to be a gateway drug, leading to the purchase of several more.
5. And finally, Neal Stephenson has a new book coming in September which sounds like the best thing since Snow Crash. Really looking forward to it.
Got any book news to share? Anything you're looking forward to?
I'm over at Genreality today talking about
productivity and preparation. Because without preparation, there's little productivity. And without productivity, you don't find out you've sold Thai rights to Claimed by the Wolf. (Books that don't get written don't have sub rights sales, see.)
1. Walk on the Wild Side's current release is from Anne Calhoun. You can read Fighting Fair and get a taste for her writing style. Which is why I love novelettes, novellas, and short stories. I've discovered many authors this way and I love that with ebooks, you can buy singly instead of a whole anthology.
3. I want that coffee cup. Bad.
4. Letters to kids from Dr. Seuss, EB White, and many others on the importance of libraries. Well worth the time to read these.
5. A very thoughtful exploration of authorial character and how it impacts the reading experience from the Vacuous Minx. This sort of touches on one of my favorite books on writing, Walking on Water, and how L'Engle examines the fact that creative work is not necessarily a reflection of the creator's own limitations and faults. That great work comes from people who weren't and maybe that's the point of art.
So there you go. Happy Monday. Read, be inspired, create something that might be bigger and better than you.
1. I can be had cheap! Several of my backlist titles are on sale for $1.49 at Amazon's Kindle store. Some are full-length novels, some are novellas, but the $1.49 price tag is not likely to last so if you've missed these titles, now's a great time to shop and save.
2. The Guild is back! Catch Season 5 here.
3. Want to help your kids brush up their math skills before school starts? Try Khan Academy's fabulous and free tutorials.
4. Considering homeschooling?
Penelope Trunk has some fascinating information to help sort out the pros and cons. Whether you try it or not, I think she's right about how the trend will affect the workplace in the near future.
5. Making Light has 50 Ways to Plot Your Novel.
It's been a week, surely I have something to say, right? Behold, your weekly post. With links. You're welcome.
2. This morning I was reading The Bloggess. The husband saw the messages on the bananas, and not only was he as entranced as I was with the idea of banana writing, he immediately said, "We should do this with the messages from
THEY LIVE. Like, 'obey'." And I said, "This is why we're married."
3. Our summer of Harry Potter reading with kids has led to unexpected results. Namely, Morgan is dealing with becoming a middle child by wearing a Slanket and
pretending to be a Dementor. Until she was overcome with the need to nap. Apparently evil DOES sleep.