Thursday, May 14, 2009

Weekly Goals Update

I had a pretty okay week. This was my first week moving towards my list of 105 goals. One down 143 to go.

These were the goals that I made effort towards last week:
# 38 Graduate from college: I took my exams, signed up for my last semester of classes and submitted my degree check. I also was able to successfully petition my extension on my correspondence econ class, which was good since I've not had much time to work on it. Great progress, but consumed pretty much all of my non-work-time existence.
# 32 Teach Sadie three new tricks: I started teaching Sadie "say your prayers." Eventually this will make her put her paws on a nearby chair (while sitting) and put her nose under one of her paws. Right now she can put her paws on the chair but then gets really excited and runs off to find a toy.... Pete is working on Roll Over. Not going very well.
# 25 Be an egg donor: I was picked by a couple!! I will give more details about this sometime next week. But basically, I have signed up to undergo a procedure to harvest a few eggs so that a couple with fertility issues can have a child. This will allow a future mother with problems with her own eggs still experience being pregnant with her husband's child.
# 17 Get a leadership position in JLC: I don't know if this counts, but last night at our general meeting, I was one of ~10% of associate (new) members given the shining star award. This basically says that you are a good member of the junior league and tried hard to do a good job. This means that people are noticing so is a very small part towards moving towards eventually having some sort of leadership role.

Next week I will work towards:
# 4 Burlesque for three sessions: I will sign up for a burlesque class. Forgot to do this last week.
# 53 Refinance condo: Pete didn't make too much progress. I will follow up with him some more.
# 38 Graduate from college: I will work on my first paper for that econ class.
# 85 Finish writing three novels: I have my next set of work due to my wonderful betas on Sunday.
# 32 Teach Sadie three new tricks: Going to try to keep working on "Say Your Prayers".
# 17 Get a leadership position in JLC: I am going to help approach Pompeii for them to partner with us. Not sure what that means yet. Will find out more soon.

I am okay with the amount of progress made last week because I am happy with the results of my finals, but I wish that I'd been able to work more on my novel. It makes me a little sad that the correspondence class is going to take up so much of my existence. Also, it's not on the list, but I am in the application process for a job and I have to write this little program. It's fun, and the basic part is done, but I want to wow them with my awesomeness, so that, too will eat away at a large part of my weekend. They sound great, but I am okay with where I am too, despite the problems. I definitely have an open mind though! I am more concerned about my career down the road and I'm not thinking where I am is that great long term. We will see.

A couple things that I found funny in reviewing my list: there wasn't too much that was directly work related...or at least not as much as there would have been a couple years ago. Perhaps this means that I am more comfortable with where I am professionally.

Starting next week I will upload images of me working my goals. If anyone else out there is thinking about starting your own list, please let me know :) I hope that I have maybe inspired someone or, if you found me because of my list and are going to start your own let me know and we can encourage each other :) What else is blogging about but that :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Motivations of Secondary Characters

Everyone intrinsically understands that the main characters have goals and motivations. But what about secondary character?

Ignore this being about fiction. Every person has some sort of goal or internal desire. Their lives might not be the stuff of Broadway musicals, but it is important to them and in his or her own way everyone has a complex existence. No matter how small a role a character in your story plays they must have some external driving force. Obviously you don't have time or care to delve into everyone that crops up in your pages, but, secondary characters who spend any amount of time interacting with the main character should have some goals and motivations both in line with and against your main character. We might not get to see all the complexities and nuances of their lives, but it should be at least alluded to that there is more behind the curtain. Show us that they have private dramas.

Motivations should not be stero-typical. The friend might be loyal, but, just like in real life, that loyalty isn't without bounds. A secondary character isn't just someone for the protagonist to talk to or the antagonist to plot with, a good secondary character will have driving reasons beyond just being helpful. However, you don't want the secondary character to overtake the story. Just like supporting actors can't upstage the star, a secondary character needs to be interesting without taking too much attention away from the protagonist.

A secondary character can be an agent of change for your protagonist. I don't know about you, but in some ways I interact a little differently with everyone I run across depending on who they are. For example, I act differently with my boss than I do with my Junior League friends, and I act differently with them than I would with my closest childhood friend. The same is true for your protagonist. In this way we are able to more intimately view the protagonist because we see how they interact with characters that are more complex. Everything rackets up a level.

The final thing that really interests me as a writer when working on secondary characters is the fact that no one is fully good nor fully evil and for the most part people want to do good or at least live up to their belief systems.

Secondary characters can be mentors, friends, friends of villains, neighbors, owners of a local store the protagonist frequents, family members or anyone really. Giving them lives of their own gives you plenty of fodder for sub-plots and themes as well as gives the protagonist a more robust life (by making those in his or her life more robust).

Some of my favorite secondary characters are:

  • Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars)
  • Sir Walter Elliot (Jane Austen’s Persuasion)
  • Alaris (Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart series--actually she has many great secondary characters)
  • Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series)
  • Soup Nazi (Seinfield)
Who are some of your favorite secondary characters?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chicago: What's to do?

Since I'm all about the finals today (even having to use a vacation day to study), I am going to post a terrific site which will tell all about things to do around the Chicago area. The idea is, instead of some sites that tell you hundreds of things to do when you go to visit, this site just gives you a few ideas each week.

This week the topic is the Peggy Nobart Nature Museum. Clicking on the link will allow you to read about the Museum, which is my contribution to My Town Monday, even though it's kinda cheating :-P. However, the three top features change each Wednesday so if you are viewing this on Wednesday or later, you will be seeing something different. The Museum is located next to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Friday, May 8, 2009

105 Goals in 1001 days

Actually it is suppose to be 101 Goals, but I had a hard enough time getting it down to 105 much less cutting four more off! I saw this on LovingMom2Boys and since I'm all about goals, I decided this would be good :). I googled the concept and found that many people out there in the inter-tubes are doing this. You can find the main site for this at Day Zero.

Basically the rational is that 1001 is just a little bit shy of three years, which is a much more reasonable time to complete some longer term goals than a normal one year set. Also, it is not tied to an arbitrary date, but is a date of your own choosing. The rules are: (copied from the Day Zero Site):

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

I had a few lists floating around including Baby Bucket List, New Years Goals, and Birthday Goals which I combined into this master list. I hope people aren't sick of reading about my goals! But these aren't new ones, just a way to get myself to be motivated to stick to them.

Goals change, and that is totally okay. If I decide to stop pursuing a goal I have to replace it with a different goal. Every goal that I do not complete in 1001 days I will donate $10 to charity, but since I have four extra goals, I get four wiggle rooms on both those statements (in other words, I can drop four or be off by four--or a combo of that--and have no penalty). So if I am starting today I need to be done by February 3, 2012.

Every Friday I will blog about my progress and state the goals I will be actively pursuing for the next week. I thought about making that a goal in and of itself, but I feel as if that is just part of the process verses a goal. This will force me to make constant progress on my goals and hopefully have some fun life experiences along the way!

For the next week I will be working on:
# 38 Graduate from college: I will be studying and taking my finals for this semester.
# 85 Finish writing three novels: because I will be submitting the next section in my WiP to my lovely beta readers.
# 4 Burlesque for three sessions: because I will sign up for a burlesque class.
# 53 Refinance condo: because I have delegated that to Pete and he is working on getting the details worked out.

# 1 Ballroom Dancing Class (0/1)
# 2 Get a piano and learn/Re-learn 10 piano songs (at level I used to be at) (0/11)
# 3 Spanish Class (0/1)
# 4 Burlesque class for five sessions (0/5)
# 5 Three different art-related classes (pottery, woodworking?, something else) (0/3)
# 6 PMP classes taken and credit granted (0/24)
# 7 Photography (with new camera) (0/2)
# 8 Wine Class (0/1)
# 9 Horse riding lessons (0/1)
# 10 Motorcycle class with Pete (0/1)
# 11 Martial Arts of some form (0/1)
# 12 Belly Dance Class (0/1)

Things I'd like to do
# 13 Be in a play (0/1)
# 14 Send out holiday cards (0/1)
# 15 Participate in a book club (0/1)
# 16 Join two non-profit Boards (one can be jr) (0/1)
# 17 Get a leadership position in JLC (0/1)
# 18 Go to ten Chicago-area street fairs (0/10)
# 19 Go to a concert at Ravinia (0/1)
# 20 Go to a Cubs, Bears, Fire and Blackhawks game (0/4)
# 21 Ice skate outside (0/1)
# 22 Knit something (0/1)
# 23 Timeshare a sailboat for a summer (0/1)
# 24 Complete a marathon (0/1)
# 25 Be an egg donor (0/1)
# 26 Volunteer with Pete five times (0/5)
# 27 Give three different people a "just because" gift (0/3)
# 28 Make three things with my sewing machine (0/3)
# 29 Go to Medieval Times (0/1)
# 30 Send a care package to a solider (0/1)
# 31 Put change in someone's expired meter (0/1)
# 32 Teach Sadie three new tricks (0/3)
# 33 Have a picnic (0/1)
# 34 Have clothes, coffee and lunch ready before bed for two consecutive weeks (0/2)
# 35 Throw a surprise party for a friend (0/1)
# 36 Mystery Dinner Theater (0/1)

Things I ought to be doing
# 37 Drive a stick shift car by myself ten times (0/10)
# 38 Graduate from college (0/1)
# 39 Get life insurance (0/1)
# 40 Get caught up on dental work (0/1)
# 41 Get back to my wedding day weight and maintain it for three months (0/1)
# 42 Keep house tidy every day for a full month (0/30)
# 43 Join a Catholic YA Group and go to ten meetings (0/10)
# 44 Recycle everything for a month (0/30)
# 45 Dress up nicely everyday for a month on two different occasions (0/60)

Around the Condo
# 46 Get a grill (0/1)
# 47 Remodel the downstairs (0/1)
# 48 Get the bedroom, den and media room decorated nicely (0/3)
# 49 Winterize the condo (0/1)
# 50 Get some form of art for every room of the condo currently without art--plus two to grow on (0/7)
# 51 Put up more places for Skittles to enjoy around the house (above fridge, in media room, in bedroom, ?, ?) (0/5)
# 52 Finish up decorating the main room (chandelier, lights above bar, recessed lights, paint, kitchen backsplash, blank wall) (0/7)

# 53 Refinance condo (0/1)
# 54 Create a budget and stick to it for three months (doesn't have to be consecutive) (0/3)
# 55 Out from PMI (0/1)
# 56 Save three, six and nine months of living expenses (0/1)
# 57 Get three different stocks that yield dividends (0/3)
# 58 Get a financial adviser (0/1)
# 59 Save money according to baby bucket list goals (0/5)
# 60 Go one month with no unnecessary purchases (0/30)

Travel/Adventure (many of these will be concurrent with each other)
# 61 Go windsurfing (0/1)
# 62 Go on an Adventure trip (0/1)
# 63 Go skiing (0/1)
# 64 Visit fifteen states (0/15)
# 65 Visit to Central America, Mexico, Africa, Europe, Caribbean (0/5)
# 66 Take a trip involving biking or horse back riding through somewhere out west (0/1)
# 67 Girls Only Trip (0/1)
# 68 Go white water rafting (0/1)
# 69 Hot air balloon ride (0/1)
# 70 SCUBA with Pete (0/1)
# 71 Attend a Broadway show (0/1)
# 72 Go camping three times (0/3)
# 73 Go geocaching around Chicago (0/1)
# 74 Swim with Dolphins (0/1)
# 75 See the northern lights (0/1)
# 76 Take an African Safari (0/1)
# 77 ATV somewhere while on vacation (0/1)
# 78 Surf class (0/1)
# 79 Kite surfing (0/1)
# 80 Go sail the little sail boats (0/5)
# 81 Train for and then go rock climbing somewhere outside (0/2)
# 82 Go horse back riding on the beach (0/1)
# 83 Kayak in the Everglades (0/1)

# 84 Get my PMP (0/1)
# 85 Finish writing three novels (0/3)
# 86 Create the Any Gift Site (0/1)
# 87 Put everything on hold for two months and actively pursue making Any Gift a reality (0/2)
# 88 Submit a novel for publication (0/1)
# 89 Write 1k words a day every day for a full month (0/30)
# 90 Get a project management job (0/1)
# 91 Publish three articles in the software or PM fields (0/3)
# 92 Do a consulting job on the side (0/1)

Marriage and Family
# 93 Write snail mail to the kiddos ten times (0/10)
# 94 Make a wedding album for us and for parents (0/3)
# 95 Take each kid out to something just them and us two times (0/6)
# 96 Surprise Pete with something nice and unexpected five times (0/5)
# 97 Make a doll for each of the girls (0/2)
# 98 Write a book for the girls in at least ten installments (0/10)
# 99 Do twenty things in the heart box (0/20)
# 100 Surprise Pete with a three day trip Gallena or the Dells (0/1)

# 101 See five different plays that friends are in (0/5)
# 102 Host thirty dinner parties with food from various cultures (0/30)
# 103 Host a poker night (0/1)
# 104 Spend a day doing something with a friend they have never done five times (0/5)
# 105 For one month be busy five nights a week with something purely social (0/20)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday Update

So I realize that off on the right hand margin I have a little "Blog Schedule" with themes and days of the week. And then I proceed to totally ignore it. Once classes are done I plan on getting back onto my schedule.

I updated my avatar. I think that it looks more writer-ish since I have a pencil, paper and my laptop. Although I was working on Stats at the time. Details. It's funny because the photo for my Facebook avatar, which changes pretty much monthly, was taken at the same time. Details. It will change soonish anyways.

Prophecy's Promise is going pretty well. I'm sending out weekly revisions to my beta readers. I have these little micro-chapters and five equal one normal chapter so I have been sending out five chapters each week. I think there will end up being around 16 of these sets, but I have the first 9 sets in some form of draft (some rougher than others) and the last 4 sets outlined. The middle three need to be mapped out. I have only vague ideas for them. Mid June will get me through the first 9 sets if I send them out weekly. Currently that is my goal. I will also try to keep working on the middle part, but for now that is just floating around in my head. If I go the third person route I think that the added words for them will make this middle part be pretty short so I have to figure that part out first. Still a bit undecided.

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice about the point of view dilemma. I am still a bit undecided as to how it will end up, but I have decided to go ahead and finish filling out these next few sets. Changing from first to third will help the third be much closer so I'm not too worried about that. I am going to rewrite a couple sections in third and see which people like better. My beta readers are a bit divided on the issue, but one is adamant about keeping it in first. She loves the voice. So that's why I don't know.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Considering Rewriting in Third

Currently my WiP is in first person. Actually, it had begun in third, but after reading Kushiel's Dart and falling in love with the beautiful way Jacqueline Carey spun her words, I felt inspired to rewrite my novel in first person.

For those of you who don't know, which probably isn't anyone following my blog, but just in case... First person is using "I"/"me". The narrator is the main character (well, not always, Great Gatsby, for example, used a secondary character to narrate what he observed in the main characters). "I carefully approached the door, unsure of what lay on the other side."

Third person has the narrator as not a characters. This is what most novels are written in. "She carefully approached the door, unsure of what lay on the other side."

First person allows for deeper characterization since we are literally inside the main character's head. Third person allows for a more-well rounded view of the world. Although you can have omniscient (can observe everyone) or deep (it's third person but you are still looking through the eyes of just one character at a time). Jane Austin and her contemporaries wrote omniscient, but most modern novels are written deep. If I were to write in third person it would for sure be deep.

Why First?
I write very informally and sometimes one might construe some of the way I write as humor. I wanted to leverage that, which I really couldn't, or not as easily, in third. Also, there are huge changes that my main character will be undergoing and that can most easily portray that in first person. She's got a lot of things to be angst-y about and I think it is not as directly conveyed in third person...or at least isn't as interestingly conveyed.

Part of the journey is that there is this evil power and, while I haven't fully decided how she is going to battle it, I thought that it would be neat for her to have to internally battle it. Basically, she'd absorb the evil and then have to internally defeat it by her actions. This would be much easier to show in first person, although I could probably achieve a similar affect in deep third, but no where near as powerfully. Also, as a reader I do prefer first person, when written well.

Why third?
My main character is on a journey and much of this journey requires her to be away from the rest of the cast for a very long time. During this time many changes are afoot. I was thinking about having her find a way to watch them, but there is a very high cost associated with that. But that would only be able to occur when she is away by choice. Early-ish in the book (sorry, betas, slight spoiler) she is captured, but her two love interests join together and save her. The end up enlisting the help of this local boy in exchange for an object that the boy wants. Since it's in first person the reader sees her in captivity and then rescued and has to get caught up. That's not bad, but there is some drama that happens off stage that I can't show.

Also, one of my strengths is that the antagonist starts out as a fellow protagonist and the story could very easily be rewritten so that the protagonist is the antagonist and vice versa. Not because the bad guy justifies his actions to himself, but because there is a...philosophical difference between why the protagonist and antagonist have their motivations. One man's freedom fighter is the next man's rebel. Beyond that, there are a couple of secondary protagonists who seem to be countering the main protag, but really think they are helping her. Actually, one of the themes is that "everyone is out for themselves, even when it comes to the end of the world." The quotes are there because that's a direct line from my query letter (don't worry, I haven't sent it out...forming the query letter early helped me to focus my plot and premise).

Weighing my Options
First and third definitely have advantages, not just in general, but also in my story. I'm 35k words in so pretty invested, but definitely not impossible to switch at this point.

Now, some books have done multiple first person view points, but I find that jarring as a reader. I always get confused who the "I" is referring to--so that is not an option that I am interested in pursuing. I have also heard about one mystery author who writes in first person when it is the main character, but also does third person when wanting to show POV of other characters. I don't know who, I was just told by a friend who couldn't remember the author's name. I am considering this. I think it might be the best of both worlds, but I think that would be confusing and would pop the reader out of the flow. not sure...and I really want to decide before I invest more time AND I want to get this thing done before my birthday so I don't want to spend too much time thinking about it!

I guess at the end of the day what is the most important is: which is more marketable. Obviously there are more novels in third. Is this because readers and publishers prefer this, or just because authors do? Kushiel's Dart's been out for awhile now so many other fantasy novelists have decided to try first person and I might be stuck with some fierce competition. I don't know. :-/

Any thoughts in blog land? I would *really* appreciate your input!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lessons from the Ice Age Squirrel (Scrat) and his Quest for the Acorn

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with Pixar's Ice Age movies. Each movie has a plot line, but through out them it keeps jumping over to this funny looking little ice age version of a squirrel named Scrat. These parts of the movie, while containing no dialog other than little noises that come from Scrat, tend to get the most smiles and laughs. Personally, I remember these parts more than the rest of the movie? Why? Because Scrat is so lovable and his plight (get the acorn) is so accessible. Despite the fact that it's not complex and the general plot doesn't change over the whole series of movies, there is tension (will he get his acorn) and stakes (without the acornScrat could starve). He doesn't talk, but we empathize with Scrat (he's tenacious, he's cute, he is little and the world is big). Even though he has his down sides (can't talk, a bit too narrow minded, very klutzy) we love him. Actually, in many ways it may be because he has these down falls that the audience roots for him to get his acorn--and it's funny to watch him fall.

Even though it is the same motive over and over and over and over the writers continue to throw new road block's to Scrat's goals. The newest Ice Age movie's trailer shows us Scrat learning about a new problem. Female Squirrels.

Poor Scrat.

Why do you think that Scrat is such a successful character? Why do you think that after all these movies and despite the simple plot, people still laugh when Scrat falls or looses his acorn? And why do we feel a little bit of joy when the cartoon charector finally gets his acron (even though we know he's gonna loose it in a second)?

Related Posts with Thumbnails