This month we Quills are sharing about some of our favorite reads. I wonder what Robin and Parker came up with. Read on to find out!
Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has something for us. Here goes . . .
I so enjoy doing our regular “Books We Love” posts! Do I pull one of the (usually older) books off my library shelves? Or do I choose something (usually newer) from my e-reader? I love revisiting my favorite books—and I love exploring new ones! Decisions, decisions . . .
You’ll be happy to know I made one.
What did Robin choose? Find out here.
P.S. Broaddus is the author of A Hero's Curse.
Today our group is writing about books we love. I had to wrestle with what to recommend. I just finished Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and the ever phenomenal Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. But today I'm especially excited to get to recommend Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.
Read on to find out more here.
In truth, posts about “books we love” are a bit difficult for me. This is due to two oddly co-existing—yet seemingly entirely contrary—truths: (1) there are so many I love; and (2) it is so difficult to find one that I love. How is this possible?
There are numerous changes going on in the publication world, which means that one cannot always have a sense of certainty in advance as to whether a book will be worth the time and expense. Still, there is so much out there to read! So, I’m going to step back in time.
In truth, the books that most often stick with me, are those deemed to be classics. I’ve always believed that most of the classics are identified as such for a reason. For me, that reason is that there is something lasting about each of the tales—something that sticks with me. The message that I take away may not be the message the author initially intended, but there you have it! For example:
with Les Miserables, it is the beauty of self-sacrifice;
for Tess of D’ubervilles, it is the bitter result that may come as the consequence of sheer happenstance, when a note intended to be delivered in time, instead slips under a rug, only to be discovered a long time later (and “too late”);
with The Count of Monte Cristo, it is the almost fairytale-like feel of a prison escape and the discovery of a fortune;
with Great Expectations, it is the hatred Miss Havisham holds for men and how she passes that on to an innocent child who suffers as a result;
with Crime and Punishment, it is the darkness of a society and the workings of a man’s conscience;
and with Pride and Prejudice (and for that matter, all Jane Austen tales), it is the inner-workings of interpersonal relationships in closely knit communities of a particular age. Each of these tales left a permanent mark on my memory.
Thus, I’ve decided to go with one of them this time around.
I think I’ve read pretty much all of Edith Wharton’s works. I find her renditions of the peculiarities of high society in the early 20th century, intriguing. One I found particularly compelling was The House of Mirth.
Following “poor-rich” Lily Bart, who had only been taught one thing—how to be beautiful—mesmerized me. When Lily loses both parents and is an orphan without a fortune, she finds herself at the mercies of friends and relatives. Men want something from her, women hate her for her availability and beauty, and she deems it impossible to find a future with her soul mate because they would be without economic resources. Lily experiences advances she feels are violations, and her friends’ rejections. Eventually, she must find work—but with few skills, she does not do well. In the end, the reader may be left wondering: was her death accidental, or a suicide?
Here is an interesting article on the subject: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/books/21wharton.html.
Knowing Lily’s story helps me appreciate the changes in our society. I’ve seen many of them—my daughters will benefit significantly from them. For that, I’m eternally grateful.
So, what are your favorite tales?
This time around, we Quills take on the questions: Do we plan our characters in advance? Or in the moment? And how do we keep track of them all, anyway?
First up, is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. Here’s what Parker has to say . . .
Characters are great fun. Don't we all have our favorites? Maybe we love their wit, or clueless misadventures--I'm looking at you Bertie Wooster. Sometimes it's a character we relate to: I'm fond of Monk, the tightly wound, obsessive-compulsive detective.
Many of my stories are character driven--which means I'm constantly surrounded by . . . you guessed it . . . characters.
So the question comes up regarding how these personalities come to life. Do I plan them in advance? Do they spring into being in the moment? How do I keep track of them?
Take Essie Brightsday, a young blind girl and the protagonist of A Hero's Curse. How did she get here?
Read more here.
Find Parker's site here.
Thank you, Parker! (I, too, am a BIG Monk fan!)
Now, lets see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has for us this time around . . .
The answers are… Yes. And it depends! (Oops, my questionable sense of humor is showing!)
I tend to flesh out a few key characters briefly, but they grow from that organically. Every now and then random characters stroll into the story uninvited. I am not a fan of those “Get to Know Your Character” worksheets with a bazillion trivial questions, but I occasionally find them helpful when a necessary character refuses to take shape.
I do not have a shortage of inspiration. There are just so many interesting real people and characters from stories and movies from which I can pick little details! For example…
Read more here.
Finally, here are my thoughts . . .
Oh, the fun of writing! When it comes to character creation: there are no rules! Sometimes, a character comes to mind, nearly fully formed. This might happen in particular, for those key parties who engage in the most important activities in a story. But even then, they can surprise me. The character may turn out to be an unexpected whiner, or to have an unusual sense of humor, or to manage success in the face of unexpected odds. Those things tend to happen quite by chance! For example, I have one minor character in my first story who I realized near the end, almost never said anything, although he was present for a goodly portion of the tale. Rather than go back and put words in his mouth, I made that characteristic something about him that others recognized. By the time the third book of the series came around, one of the main protagonists refers to him as “Samuel the Silent,” sharing her “secret childhood moniker” for him. It wasn’t something I planned—it just . . . happened.
Occasionally, I create a character around someone from real life. In truth, that usually happens when I have something to say that might not be so nice to say . . . Oh, the fun of getting to speak my mind through the pages of my fantasy adventures!
With all that, most characters are not quite so central to a story. Often the real fun here is in introducing someone whose presence the story requires, and then waiting to see what he or she does. From time to time, a party will so surprise me, that I have to give him or her a much more important role than I’d originally intended.
All this is to say that for the most part, for me, characters develop as the story progresses. But even then, there are no hard and fast rules . . .
As to keeping track of characters, that’s another matter altogether. Whether I’m writing in a “word” program, or with Scrivener, I keep a constant record of any new character when I introduce the person. If I share physical characteristics, I make note of those. If I name them for a specific purpose, or because the name has a meaning of importance to me, I include that. As things move on, I add notes about the type of weapon the person uses, where the person is from, the names of his/her parents or siblings, or even of the horse the person rode in on (should any of those things come to be shared).
I use my characters lists regularly, to keep the details of my characters true throughout. I also include notes of things I think they will do, or purposes I expect they will serve in the future. And it’s a good thing that I do, too, because sometimes those issues are of extreme importance later—and had I not noted them, I might otherwise have forgotten them!
For example, when I started book three of The Oathtaker Series, (now—finally—with a title, namely, Ephemeral and Fleeting), I was stuck at the very beginning. There was a key issue that I had to resolve before I could even get through the first scene. In fact, I’d known details of that scene for some time. I knew it was unquestionably the way the story had to open—even though I was saddened by what was going to happen. But I had to resolve a central problem in order to complete that scene. I struggled for the answer. Then, when looking back at an old character list, there it was, in bold black and white. I discovered that, years prior, I’d made notes of the answer to the central issue/problem, not only of that opening scene, but of the entire tale. From the second I discovered my old note, it took me all of five months to write the almost 140,000 word tale—the crux of which depended on that note. So, most certainly, I do keep such a list! I cannot imagine writing without one!
How about you? Do you write? What tools do you use for character development?