Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Beginnings are the worst

Sometimes I love starting a new book. Sometimes I hate it. Right now, I definitely hate it.

The strange this is that I love my ballet dancer heroine, I love my action-man hero and I love the story premise. Somehow all this potential magic is just not making its way onto the page. Bleugh. I should add that I'm at the end of Act One - a place where I inevitably end up in the doldrums and ask myself why I'm writing this book and where the heck am I going to go next with it. If I'm a long way from my deadline, I may even avoid writing altogether. Procrastination abounds.

Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury this time around, so I decided to blog instead.
With a purpose, of course...

Anyway, since I'm desperate, I thought I'd blog about what I do to get myself kick-started when the muse has left the building. What normally works is if I dig a bit deeper into my story, which really means digging deeper into my characters, since they are the ones driving it. I also need to collect my multitudinous thoughts and organise them into something resembling a plan. Cue my ever-helpful plot board:

My plot board has had various incarnations, but the current layout seems to give me maximum space for splattering all my ideas at it. More on that in another post, maybe.

So how am I planning to refocus myself? Firstly, I'm going to sit down with my hero and heroine and ask them Michael Hauge's five questions. This is always a good starting point for me, as it helps me narrow down all the ideas I've been having about these people and focus them in one direction. Some ideas may be chucked; some ideas will magically come togehter with other ones to add depth and extra layers to my characters. Until I do this, I never know which ideas are the duds and which are the really useful ones.

Enough rambling, Fiona. Just post the questions already!

  1. What is your character's longing? (I tend to think of this as their 'inner' goal).
  2. What is your character's wound? (What event(s) in their past have shaped who they are today?)
  3. What is your character's fear? (Basically, the fear stems from the wound. Makes sense, really. If you've ever been hurt badly, either physically or emotionally, you tend to make a priority of not getting hurt the same way again).
  4. What is your character's identity? (What is the false front they present to the world? Who have they become to protect themselves from the fear of the wound?)
  5. What is your character's essence? (Michael Hauge asks "Who are they underneath? Who are they really?" I also tend to think of it in terms of who this person has the potential to be, if they would just quit hiding behind that false front and face the fear.)
And once I've done that, I'm going to think about my story's theme and how that's going to affect my characters emotional arcs. But I've wittered on enough for now. It's probably time to stop blogging and start writing. Maybe I'll even come and post the results of my character probing here too!

Oh, and I've decided I need a new soundtrack to listen to as I write too. Busy, busy day...
(This may sound frivolous, but really it isn't. The right songs to get my creative juices flowing, that drag me into the story world of the current book, can make all the difference!)


wannabe a writer said...

Hi Fiona

Oh I love the five questions - they really get to heart of the matter don't they? I'll have to try that next time I get stuck. Might even work for my edit.

Hope you dig your way out soon.


Fiona Harper said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Linda! Now...where did I put that shovel?

Liz Harris said...

An interesting blog, Fiona. I like the five questions. Many thanks for posting this.

I couldn't have a soundtrack, though - I need silence when I'm writing.

Liz X

Fiona Harper said...

I like silence too, Liz, but I discovered that when I'm in a noisy enviroment, plugging my ipod in on low helps block out even more distracting noise - better of two evils, maybe. At least I control what's on my soundtrack.