Friday, April 30, 2010

Penderown Progress and Characters

I'm sitting here in London and it looks light the sun might shine for the morning but they say we won't see it again until Monday. Typical for a bank holiday weekend.

Back during the Ash chaos i printed off Penderown and became to read - yes just read - well okay I couldn't just do that. Some typos were just too ghastly to let live any longer. The other thing I have allowed myself is to write up a note card for each scene - keeping it simple:

where
pov
who appears
what happens (or doesn't)

I'm finding this really useful for seeing the story and allowing myself to 'just read'. I am also hoping that these cards will aid me to write the synopsis before I begin the rewrite.

With Penderown in the rough draft I also didn't write 'in chapters' just scenes so that I could break it up after where I felt it worked better and I can see the advantage of this. (This was a tip I picked up from Jill Mansell who writes this way and she writes with fountain pen sitting on the sofa in front of the tellie...the woman is wonderful).

I am pleased to say even reading the story in its raw form I can see my writing has grown. I have taken on some of the lessons learnt in August Rock and A Cornish House. The pace is good and to this point - about a two thirds through the story has kept me gripped and wondering where I got such a devious mind. So I am pleased which is a surprise because in mind mind this story had become a frightening thing that was just too terrible to live and now I can see that it's not. The break since October has allowed me to see what it is a good base it is and from it will come a good book.

Two days ago Biddy Coady, an RNA mate, came for dinner and we discussed all matter of things and at random....we'd be in full discussion of a non-writing topic when something about her work in progress hit me and I immediately jumped in with it and while working through some of my plot concerns with her she aided me with grounding the characters emotions. In short it was a brilliant evening. Do you have a writing sounding board? Does it help?

And finally, something that came out of the discussion with Biddy, how well do you know your characters before you write? It seems to me writers come in two camps on this - do and don't. I really don't know them before I finish the first draft as they come alive as the story goes on. Before I put together the synopsis I am going to do full character sheets on them to see if I can enrich the story with their character ticks - make more of the things I have discovered about them in draft one. Which way do you work?

16 comments:

DJ Kirkby said...

I always think I know my charecters well before I start but they ALWAYS managed to surprise me a few times before I've finished writing the novel.

DJ Kirkby said...

I mean characters not 'charecters'. *sighs*

ninaharrington said...

Great to hear that you are loving your story again - you should be chuffed! And rightly proud of what you have achieved.
As for characters? I am the unofficial Queen of geek land and have a box full of photos and character profiles and snatches of dialogue before I start.
Although...I am in a different position as a contracted writer - I have to have a solid idea of the internal and external conflicts for my hero and heroine so that I can create a proposal for my editor which captures their character arc.
But quite right - the subtle detail and flaws emerge in that first 'discovery draft.'
Which I now have to get back to, so happy writing and hope the sun shines. :-)

Jan Jones said...

I always start with the characters and the situation. I have to know my characters before I can write with their voice.

Alison said...

Lovely, honest and encouraging post.

I also write scenes, then herd them into chapters afterwards. I have a vague notion of chapter length in my head, but I think the scenes are more important at the first draft stage.

Rather than cards or sheets, I use a grid to track the action/development - my mind seems to work like that! (Not sure if it's good etiquette to mention it, but there's a downloadable version on my blog http://www.alison-morton.com/blog/2010/04/13/helping-to-track-the-timeline-of-a-story/)

And finally... Yes, without my writing buddy/sounding board, Denise, I'd be far further back in the novel writing process. I've known her for 20 years, so we can have 'full & frank' discussions.

Phillipa said...

Liz. I usually know some of the characters before I start - some drop fully formed into my head but others really need to develop. And ones that I thought I knew chnage along the way.That's the joy of the process, isn't it? i find Nell and Liz and my daughter useful for sounding out plot probelms.

Nell Dixon said...

My characters are fully in my head as voices when I start but I don't visualise them, I just hear them and their internal thoughts. My sounding boards are my cp - Kim, my beta readers Laura and Lis if I need a check when I'm done and Liz and Phillipa, the coffee crew who help me sort stuff out in my head.

Liz Harris said...

I start with a very general idea of my character. I then try to find a name for him/her. As I look at possible names, I reject some outright, and put a question mark by others.

As I go through this process, I gradually come to know my character better because I'm crystallizing my thoughts as I consciously decide what I want the name to say about the character.

I hope that makes sense!!

JJ Beattie said...

Two of my three main characters I knew intimately the instant I saw their paintings hanging in galleries. The third... eluded me a bit because I couldn't find her face anywhere. She needs more work in this draft.

With the two paintings (one a Picasso and one Wyndham Lewis) I heard them talk and knew who they were the second I saw them.

I think seeing the growth in your own work is wonderful. Good for you.

Karen said...

I always start with a name for my main character which somehow suggests certain traits, and I take it from there.

I don't really feel I know all my characters until I'm halfway through and then I have to go back and change things at the beginning!

Sylvia Phoenix said...

I'm like you. I don't write with chapters and lengths in mind. I write things one scene at a time, though I don't keep cards for them. I suppose I'll eventually be agonising over where to put the chapter breaks but I'm not worried about it yet.

Do you think it's worth joining the RNA? I don't think my novel counts as romance, although there is some in it.

As for my characters, I've no idea who they are nor what they're going to do. I just let them take on a life of their own. Sure, I plan the basics of the story but the details are up to them, not me.

HelenMHunt said...

I think it's essential to have a sounding board, and you've obviously really benefitted from the process. I've been lucky enough to become part of a mini writing group with two other local writers and I think it's going to be really helpful.

Leigh Russell said...

Most of my characters appear in my head, fully formed - I've no idea where they come from. I have to spend time developing and thinking about a few of my characters.

Leigh Russell said...

And congratulations on your awareness of your development as a writer. That's very exciting!

Talli Roland said...

I try to know enough about my characters to understand why they're doing what they're doing, and what they want. But lots of little details get added in as I go through the first draft.

liz fenwick said...

DJ - isn't that one of the best bits about writing - the surprises :-)

Nina - not sure I could get a handle on my characters before my first draft but then again maybe if I 'have' to I will :-)

Jan - so different from me - there voice appears as I write and shapes them in my head. I normally have a name and age in my head as I begin and not much more. I love how we all work so differently...

Alison - thanks for posting that link. I like the way it works - you can see everything and check on what's happening

Phillipa - it sounds as if your process is similar to mine. What wonderful sounding boards you have!

Nell - I love how you hear them first.

Liz - that's interesting that you search for names. Mine seem to come with names or I take the first one that pops into my head...

JJ - am I reading this right - 2 of your characters are paintings...utterly brilliant

Karen - does it bother you that you have to go back and change things?

Sylvia - the RNA has been the best thing for my writing and my sanity!

Helen - I like the sound of a mini writing group - more than one but small enough to be workable. Don't think I could share my work in the early stages with more than a couple of people

Leigh - thanks. The awareness certainly helps :-)

Tali- do you keep a list of the details you add in?