Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Second City Chicago

Great news!  I made it into the advanced comedy writing classes at Second City!  The writing program is a year long.  The first eight months you get in by signing up.  The last four is by audition.  And I got in!  Yey!

I wrote about Second City back when I signed up for the second set of two months.

What does that mean?  Over the course of the next four months, my fellow students and I are going to compile sketches that we've been working on over the past eight months, audition actors and ultimately put on a show that will run for four weeks at Second City.

Zander (I'm also pregnant and that's the baby's name, short for Alexander) is due to be born about half way through that process, so that will be interesting.  :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Exploring Theme

Theme is not just for literary work.  Genre fiction and mass market novels can benefit from the extra layer of dimension that theme gives a novel.  We all have unique points of view, and our characters ought to as well.  Even if your work is purely genre or mass market, a theme can add substance to your writing.  Theme is the deeper meaning underneath the events of your story.

My work actually starts from a theme or concept and bubbles out from there, but perhaps there is a theme buried within your work that you did not realize.  Prophecy's Promise is about how there is no true good side.  Another theme is that sometimes to save something we have to let it go.  The Lioness started from hearing a co-worker talk about his experiences as a Bosnian refugee living in Turkey.  I talk about war and genocide and honesty in relationships.

In both cases, I'm not trying to answer anything, but ask questions.  Is war ever okay?  Can you be truly in love if the other person doesn't know your past?

What is theme?
It's the overall message of the story.  I think Dean Koontz put it well when he said "Theme is a statement, or series of related observations, about some aspect of the human condition, interpreted from the unique viewpoint of the author."

Some examples of possible themes:
  • Ethical questions (death penalty, charity, honesty, etc)
  • Unrequited love
  • The importance of family
  • The importance of friends
  • Grief
  • War's impact

Why is theme important?
Even if you are writing something meant for enjoyment, you are still writing to communicate.  You are still expressing your thoughts and view points.  Theme is deeper than the events of your story.  It's what will keep your characters in your reader's thoughts.  It is also what can tie your characters and events more closely to your reader's life by giving your reader something to think about.

I would argue that a novel without a theme is small talk.  A novel with a theme is a conversation.  Theme adds substance to a novel.  And you may already have a theme without realizing it.  Readers will pull out themes from your writing, maybe even some that you did not intend, which is great. Your work is speaking to them.

Is there a deeper concept or theme that you are trying to convey in your current work?  Or even if you aren't trying to convey it, does one exist?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Heroic Qualities -- or the Makings of a Protagonist

I don't know about you, but when I think of some of my favorite books, I remember the main characters.   They are different.  They are special.  Even if they seem normal, there is something inside of them that sets them apart.  That lets us root for them.  That lets us remember them.

Heroes are partially made by the events they come in contact with, but great heroes have special qualities that are apparent from the beginning of the story. These qualities help us care.  These qualities get us to care about the main characters.

Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite characters in books and two qualities that I admire in them.  These aren't necessarily the top or most obvious traits, but but I personally like about these characters.

  • Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Driven.  Integrity.
  • Phedre in Kushiel's Dart.  Smart.  Sensuous.
  • Anne in Anne of Green Gables Optimistic.  Kind.
  • Dresden in Storm Front (Dresden Files Series) Honorable. Helps Others.
  • Lyra in His Dark Materials Cunning. Tenacious.

Also, many of these good traits end up getting in their way.  Dresden rushes into situations that are over his head in order to help people.  Phedre can be a bit too sensuous (well, she is a courtesan) which gets her in very interesting and dangerous situations and causes friction with her lover.  Atticus is so determined to do the right thing for a wrongly convicted man but this puts his children in danger.

Any strength taken too far can become a weakness.  Persistence can become obsession.  Optimism can keep people from seeing life's realities.  Integrity can become unbending.  Each character's strength taken too far can be their greatest weakness or if not a weakness, can add consequences and conflict.

  1. What are some of your favorite characters?  What are two traits that you admire in them?      
  2. Can you add one or two of these traits to your protagonist?
  3. How can each of these traits cause problems for the protagonist?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Clocking Writing Time

My first draft of The Lioness is complete at a bit over 50,000 words.  On the first draft, I'm a very sparse writer.  It's mostly dialog and basic movement information.  It's tons of action and very little reaction or internal motivation.  I'll more about that at some other time.

I am a very slow writer during the drafting process.  According to the notes that I have kept, I write at less than 500 words per hour.  That means that this first draft is over 100 hours of just writing time.  That does not count planning or thinking time.

How do I know this?  I track my writing time and my word count increases during that time.  I'm trying to notice patterns in when I am more productive.  Here is my log from September through this weekend.

  • I mostly only write on the weekends.  But, I could tell you this without tracking my time!
  • Sometimes I am very bad and miss almost a month of writing.
  • Word count per hour is slightly higher if I've written within the past few days
  • If I write every day, the count per hour does go down after a few days (I think because I've not spent as much thinking time in between)
  • Some scenes are just easier to write.
  • Dialog is fastest for me.

Do any of you track your writing time?  Do you notice any patterns?  About how many words per hour can you add to your WIP?

Related Posts with Thumbnails