Sunday, 27 March 2011

Fearless Finn turns out to be a wuss

After delving into my heroine's character, I turned my attention to my hero. About time too, really, because so far he's just been a bit of sketchy idea in my mind. I thought I'd worked out who he was, but it turned out I'd only scratched the surface and kidded myself I'd dug a pit.


Finn McLeod is an all-out action man and survival expert, who likes nothing better than discovering new things about this wonderful planet we're all stuck on. He says he likes adventure, that he likes going into uncharted territory. He's lying, of course. Oh, he loves the great outdoors all right, but when it comes to human relationships, Finn likes to play it safe.

Here are Finn's five questions (see here for an explanation):

What is my hero's longing?
  • He longs for connection.

What is my character's wound?
  • He was an army brat who was always moving. It was great fun and he saw lots of the world, which fuelled his thirst for travel and exploration, but he learnt that it hurt to get attached to places and people.
  • Learned not to put down deep roots, because they got ripped out of the ground and that was painful. He keeps his roots wide, but shallow. However, this means there isn't the same depth of satisfaction in his life. He keeps looking for more adventure, thinking the farther he spreads his roots the more fulfilled he will be, when actually what he needs is to go deeper.

What is my character's fear?

  • Fear of not being connected to anyone or anything, of too much empty space in his life.
  • Just don't ask him to rely on one person completely. That's a little too connected for itchy-feet Finn.

What is your character's identity?

  • Intrepid explorer and emotional tourist.
  • He's got a wide circle of friends and acquaintances - people love his happy-go-lucky nature - but he doesn't actually let anyone close, even though they all might feel as if they're his best friend.
  • His thirst for exploration comes from a need to feel connected to the world he lives in. He doesn't just travel widely, but he's become an expert on certain types of habitat.
  • However, he has neglected to explore human relationships with the same thoroughness. While he despises people who never leave their TV sets, or only do day-trips and package holidays, he is guilty of the same superficiality in his emotional life. When it comes to relationships, Finn is just a tourist.

What is my character's essence?
  • A man who is not afraid to put down deep and lasting roots. A man who can choose to stay in one place, and who can find the same thrill from discovering new things about the woman he loves every day for the rest of his life.

Which leads me to Finn's lessons:

What will my character have to learn to make the journey from IDENTITY to ESSENCE?

  • To own up to the fact that, although he is totally free, there are areas in his life that he chooses not to venture into, because he is scared of what he might find there.
  • Finn is a man who loves everything new, everything wild and unexplored, but he's going to have to learn the joy that can be found in cultivating things, because that is what long-term relationships require.
  • Freedom is a gift that he has not been using wisely.


Janet said...

"While he despises people who never leave their TV sets, or only do day-trips and package holidays, he is guilty of the same superficiality in his emotional life."

This is brilliant!!! I wish I had the psychological knowledge to come up with such insights into my characters.

Lacey Devlin said...

Finn sounds fantastic! I can't wait to read his story :)

Fiona Harper said...

That was one of those things that came to me in a mometary flash, Janet. Those are always the best nuggets of insight into my characters - those seemingly random things that pop into my consciousness when I'm doing something other than writing.

However, I say "seemingly", because I often think these are the 'fruit' of my digging sessions. If I hadn't done all that thinking the day before/earlier in the day, that little gem might never have floated to the surface.

Since the whole theme of the book is control/captivity versus freedom, I wanted to find an area where the free-spirited Finn was also caged in. Allegra couldn't be the only one with issues on that front. Finn's are just less obvious.

Janet said...

'Since the whole theme of the book is control/captivity versus freedom...'

I'm so glad you mentione theme. I've often wondered about the best way to plan theme in a romance novel. I've been reading about theme in Dara Marks How-to-write book (Inside Story). but what she says seems to seems to apply more to stories with just one main character. For her, the theme of a story seems to be a single word. eg Manhood (Dead Poet's Society)And out of that comes the author's statement/perspective on that theme eg Take control of your lives. (which is also the boys' character arc)

But your theme is 2 words. You've taken 2 opposites and given one side to the hero and one to the heroine. Which seems much more suited to a story with 2 main characters. Will each then help the other to get more of a balance in their lives? (So the control person deveops more freedom and vice versa)

Fiona Harper said...

Interesting, Janet! I'm reading Inside Story at the moment too. I've been wanting to understand more about the idea of theme, as I have a feeling it's the glue that holds everything together.

Another book that's good on that front is 'The Moral Premise' by Stanley Williams. Quite a lot of what Dara Marks is saying ties into Stanley Williams's ideas and Micheal Hauge's. I love piecing this stuff togehter! It's great.

Fiona Harper said...

I also think that you can have a hero and heroine exploring one issue rather than being on opposite sides of it - they just might reflect different aspects of that issue.

But in this case, although it seems Finn is free and Allegra is caged, they are both suffering as the result of limitations/restrictions at the beginning of the story, and they will both be experiencing greater freedom at the end of the book. Allegra has the bigger arc in this story, though.

Cara Cooper said...

Hi Fiona - really enjoying your posts about character and how you go about crafting your novels. I've just finished Three Weddings and a Baby and it was really interesting to hear where the nuggets were for the story that you turned into polished gold. I am fascinated with the different methods authors use so I'm awaiting your next blog post with interest. We met briefly when you did a New Voices talk in Bromley and I scribbled loads of notes, but having it reiterated again, more fully and in particular in reference to a soon to be published book (let's hope they don't give you too many revisions once you get the draft done!) is a real gem. Thank you!

Fiona Harper said...

Hi, Cara! Nice to 'see' you again - even if it's only in the cyber sense.

I don't think I've ever blogged in such an in-depth way while I've been writing a book before, but writing about my process is really seeming to help me get to grips with a trickly book.

But I have to stress, these are things I find helpful for my process. It's going to resonate with some people and make others scratch their heads or run screaming from the room.

Janet said...

"I love piecing this stuff together! It's great."

Me too :) Off to get a copy of The Moral Premise.

Michael Hauge (in a 1989 book 'Writing Screenplays that sell.') reckons you shouldn't begin with a theme but disregard it until you've written at least one draft--that you should develop the plot first (as theme grows out of plot.)

Maybe for anyone writing for Harlequin it's the other way round--we need to use our characters' inner motivations and theme to determine the external plot?

Fiona Harper said...

I think every writer is different. I like to have an idea of theme as I write, because I feel it's like deciding where north is for my story compass. Without it I feel directionless. I know other writers who hate to plan anything in advance and are much happier discovering what the story is about as they go along. Whatever fits your process, I say.

From my point of view I think you're totally right about wanting that inner journey mapped out before the outer one. That's definitely how I work. I need to have a good idea of the emotional journeys my hero and heroine are going to take before I start to write, and then I construct plot events that push them into making that journey. But, like I said, not everyone works that way, so I'm always a bit wary about being too prescriptive about this stuff.