Thursday, October 16, 2008

Channeling Your Characters - Workshop notes

What I'm reading: House of Lies, by Maggie Toussaint

Central Florida Romance Writers hosted an all day workshop by Alicia Rasley on Channeling your Character. Since for me, the book is nothing without characters I can care about, I found the hours well spent.

I loved her opening quote … "Fiction is true, just not real."

We identify with characters at a subconscious level, so she suggests writing in the 1st person POV of the character to get to know them (regardless of which POV you use in the book). She went on to hand out a list of 19 questions, such as, "How would a casual acquaintance describe your personality? How would the description be wrong? Why? What if your mother was doing the describing? Your spouse?" Other questions on the list covered knowing oneself, self esteem, fear, keeping secrets, trust, family role, and many more.

She said we all choose disguises of who we'd like to be. Who we really are is a mixture of who we think we are and who we want to be.

People who test others are probably testing themselves.

Our goals are clues to our inner selves, but they are external.

Our inner life affects how we behave in our outer life.

Her example was a flower: The stem represents goals (outer life), while the roots that support the plant represents our inner life. In writing, the statement and achievement of a goal can't be a straight line. And, she points out, achieving the goal should never entirely fulfill the inner motivation. Goals provide the ending of the book. A character might achieve the goal, but the result shouldn't be what they expected. Also, how they react when they don't achieve a goal is important. Their inner motivation will still be there. In romance, "Love" is often seen as the solution, but it's a motivation, not the goal. So, we need to take the internal goals and motivations and show them externally.

More tips:

The opening scene is where the author uncovers and the reader discovers. We want readers to ask questions. Contradictions show the complexities of characters. Remember to give characters room to grow. They should be less than perfect in the opening scenes. She stressed that they don't need to act "properly" but their underlying intentions must be good in order for the reader to care about them.

She suggests that if a character doesn't do the "right" thing, that we write the scene in that POV to show that the impulses are correct even if the actions aren't.

I'll post more notes tomorrow.


Dara Edmondson said...

This was a very valuable workshop. I also got much out of it although I never cried so much at one;-)

Terry Odell said...

For me, it was Deb Dixon's reading her Doc Holiday book -- and I cried BOTH times.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Terry,
Thanks for mentioning House of Lies in your reading list! I'm always excited to see folks reading my books.

Great blog. I much admire Alicia Rasley. She is one of my all-time favorite writing gurus.


Terry Odell said...

Thanks for dropping in, Maggie. Your book has been on my list for a long time--and congrats on the Reader's Choice Award. Nice to see small press books pulling their weight alongside the big NY names.

Ray said...

I am way behind. I have gone through a couple of periods of intense reading with very little time on the computer.

The quote by Alicia Rasley, "Fiction is true, just not real." is a perfect description of the way I vew fiction. I have believed for years that good fiction is non fiction without footnotes.

I really enjoy the information you impart on your blogs.


Terry Odell said...

Ray, thanks for stopping by. The beauty of blogs like this is that you can access them long after the post is up. I'm glad you're enjoying them.