So, we’re on week 3 of Corrine Jackson’s group writing process series. And this week’s topic is: Deepening Your Characters: What is at the heart of a complex character?

Wait—you mean our characters have to be deep? Um…

Joking, of course. Characters need to have layers, and almost more importantly for me—they need to have flaws. I’m sorry, but being that I’m about a bazillion degrees away from perfect myself (shocking, I know), it’s really hard for me to relate to flawless characters. You know, the ones that are beautiful, rich, have superpowers, get the guy, and gosh darn it, are just flat-out nice. All. The. Time.

All that and she bakes, too?  Kill me  now.

All that and she bakes, too? Kill me now.

Barf.

In fact, I’ll even go a step further. I would much rather read about a deeply flawed character than one without any imperfections. Why? Because the deeply flawed character is a heckuva lot more interesting.

If you don’t believe me, check out Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, where her MC Micah is a pathological liar, or Courtney Summer’s Regina in Some Girls Are. As a former high school bully, Regina was hard to relate to at times, and had some major issues. Heck, I didn’t even really *like* her half the time. That said, I finished that book in one sitting and still teared up at least three times.

When I think of some of the most memorable film characters—from Scarlett O’Hara to Forrest Gump to Hans Solo—I can see that they all have flaws. Perfection just isn’t exciting. But character flaws, and how they deal with conflict IN SPITE of them, is.

Smokin.

Smokin'.

So, a complex character is one who has both strengths and flaws, good and bad. Just like a real person—except when it comes to our characters, we get to torture them. Legally.

Ah, torture. That brings us to the book I’m reading, Plot & Structure, and what it has to say on character. Because you can create the most interesting character in the world, but the reader will never know unless you make that character struggle—and change as a result. The character arc, so to speak.

When James Scott Bell talks about characters, he has this to say:
What makes a plot truly memorable is not all of the action, but what the action does to the character. We respond to the character who changes.

To him, I think the heart of a complex character is the ability to change.

Now, go check out Cory’s blog and her links to all the other participating writers’ blogs!

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This is how we do it…take two!

Time for the second week of Corrine Jackson’s writing process series on how writers do it. Today’s topic? Getting Into the Zone: What goes into the creative process of writing a novel? (i.e. Author’s mindset, the writer’s environment, etc.)

Lots and lots of junk food…whoa, what? Who said that? Actually, I don’t know if I’ve upped my junk food intake so much as I’ve maxed out on caffeine—one of the hazards of writing at Starbucks/Boudin.

Yeah, I’m one of those weird writers who doesn’t get much writing done at home unless it’s late at night. (read: kidlets are all locked up straight-jacketed asleep in their beds, and dogs are valiumed dozing on the couch). During the day, the house just distracts me. There’s always so much that needs to be done around here—and unless I want my MC seething with guilt over three-week-old dirty clothes piles or toilets that could be breeding the next super-bug, I tend to vamoose.

And then of course, if I sit all day at a coffee shop, it would be wrong not to buy drinks. Wrong, I tell you! Hence the caffeine.

caffeine yum

caffeine yum

Weirdly enough, I typically can’t listen to music when I write, but I can tune out conversations, background music, etc. I think I *love* my music sooooo much, that all I want to do when I hear it is sing along. I do brainstorm up a bunch of new scenes while I listen to my iPod and run, though. And I just totally digressed there, didn’t I?

Let’s see. So far, we’ve got caffeine and Starbucks. What else goes into the creative process for me? Tons and tons of desire. I mean, there are so many distractions and other things begging to be done, you’ve really got to have that fire. For me, I have to want, no, NEED, to get my story down on paper in order to make time to do it. And the best way to make that happen is to both a) start writing the darn thing and see what comes (which sounds slightly contradictory to what I just said but trust me, it makes sense) and b) think about my story/characters A LOT.

What doesn’t go into my creative process? Outlining. I’m a total pantser. One who is trying to reform but will probably fail miserably, given how I repel all things organizationally-related.

James Scott Bell doesn’t really talk about the creative mindset so much in Plot and Structure, but he does suggest ways to brainstorm Shiny New Ideas. Examples include:

- making up a cool title and then dreaming up a story to go with it

-list mental pictures from your past and come up with little stories to describe them

-listen to music and come up with a story for the song

- scour the obituaries and recreate an original character from the biographies (As Cordelia might say–morbid much?)

-write an opening line and go from there

-mind-mapping (Something to do with writing down a word/concept that intrigues you, then doing free association to come up with a bunch of words/ideas to go with it. Honestly, it kinda scares me.)

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there’s a small section in the book on how NOT to get ideas:

Drugs, alcohol and stress

Drugs and writing = badness...unless youre Stephen King

Drugs and writing = badness...unless you're Stephen King

I know, I know—what a major killjoy! But note the conspicuous absence of caffeine from that list. Which obviously means it’s okay to tank up (hey, I had to tie this post together somehow!)

So, that’s my creative process in a nutshell—caffeine, somewhere that’s not home, and desire. What’s your creative process like?

And don’t forget to go back and check out Corrine Jackson’s post, along with all the other YA writers who participated!

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