Problems with Protagonists

Last Saturday I had another meeting with my writing group. Two people couldn’t make it which meant that I was critiqued by four people this month.

Many of you know I’m working on a mystery series titled George Florence. It was originally called Detective Florence and decided to change it.

Everyone in my group seems to enjoy the novel really well so far. I’m happy with it and I’m happy with the feedback they’ve given me, both good and bad.

Now, before I explain my problem, I have to say that I’ve been thinking about making some changes to my novel. One, I’ve been rethinking the POV. Right now it’s in first person with George as the narrator since he’s the protagonist. The more I write this series (three books written so far) the more I wonder if it should be third person limited.

Why? I’m not entirely sure. But if I’m thinking this then somewhere in the back of my mind must have some good reason, right? It wouldn’t hurt to try, right?

Okay, now I’ll explain my problem…

No one in my writing group really likes George. They all love and adorable Lilah, who is the female protagonist, but George is the main-main character… and they think he’s a wuss.

As sad as I am to admit, I agree with them. George does not have the personality I originally intended for him to have.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

George has been a character in my mind for years. I first thought of him while writing in a notebook at Barnes & Noble with my sister. I had about 40 or so pages written. The plot was different, the characters were different, the setting was different… the only thing that remained true over the years was George and the title. Lilah wasn’t even a sparkle in my eye at that time.

For an experienced detective, George certainly should not be acting the way he does. Lilah takes charge, she’s bossy, she knows what she’s doing–when she probably shouldn’t.

I told them I knew George needed to be flushed out more. I told them I was thinking of changing the POV. I also told them that Lilah seems to have squeezed her way through and started taking over the story without my consent.

Their advice? Screw George. Write Lilah’s story.

The group coordinator brought up a good point and told me that if Lilah is itching to be told, then she needs her own story as soon as possible. This is Lilah’s way of telling me that she needs to be the lead on a story.

We all know that its the characters who write the story, not the author, so when he said this I completely understood and agreed with him.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The problem is… I feel like I’m cheating on George. Of course, he would still be in the story. He would still be the detective. The plot, characters, setting, etc. would be the same. It would just be from Lilah’s point of view.

So, here are my options:

1. Keep editing and revising until George strengthens and grows against his will
2. Rewrite story in third person with George as main character… see if that makes a difference
3. Rewrite story in first person with Lilah leading the way
4. Rewrite story in third person with Lilah in the lead

Four options… doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot to take in.

George Florence is the fifth novel I’ve completed, but the first one I’ve ever been truly serious about. It’s hard trying to figure out what’s best for the novel.

The novel is already written has been edited before. The draft I’ve been sending my group is the second draft. I’ll probably keep sending them the next parts of this draft like nothing happened. Maybe George will seem like he improves throughout the story.

In the meantime, I will try to rewrite the first part with Lilah in charge. Depending on how well that turns out, then the novel may get a huge makeover.

It’s especially troublesome because I love George, even though he didn’t come out as planned. I feel bad kicking him to main male instead of main protagonist. But ultimately it comes down to this question: how can I expect to sell a novel with a protagonist no one likes?

What are your thoughts on this: has this ever happened to you? What do you think I should do?

Advertisements

Camp NaNo: New Characters

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

I wrote 3,010 words this morning. My official word count for Camp NaNoWriMo at the moment is 19,034 words. I would have liked to hit 20,000 words this morning, but I wanted to post on here and then I have to get ready for work (technically, I should be getting ready for work now).

I think it was on day two or three of Camp that I introduced a new character into my novel, Anonymous Tip (which is  a George Florence novel).

I didn’t expect her to come into the story. I didn’t think she would even exist. Her name is Celeste and she’s the mother of two side characters, so obviously she exists because those other two characters had to come from somewhere, right? Yet, she wasn’t supposed to make an appearance and she managed to push her way through anyway.

If you knew her personality, which is a stubborn and head-strong, you can easily see why she made herself known in the novel.

It’s a good thing because poor George and Lilah had a case, but they didn’t have a client. Well, this woman barged into my story and into their lives and now they have a client. So, I guess she has a purpose after all.

This morning, another new character came into play. I debated on introducing her to the series eventually, but I didn’t think it would be in this novel.

Her name is Ingrid Florence. Yes, George’s mother.

She and Celeste butt heads a lot. So, naturally when Celeste made an appearance, Ingrid felt as though she needed to join in as well.

Ingrid hasn’t actually been in the novel, yet. She left a message on George’s answering machine, but already I can tell that she too has a strong personality. Yet, she seems a lot nicer than Celeste.

I wonder if Ingrid and Celeste are going to end up in a scene together? I’m sure that would be interesting to see.

How are your novels coming along? Have any unexpected characters come for a visit?

Character Spotlight: Xavier Barron

Questions for the Author:

What is your character’s name? Does he/she have a nickname?

One of the male characters in Detective Florence is Xavier Barron. He does not have any nicknames because he doesn’t like them.

What color is his/her hair? What color are his/her eyes?

Xavier has short, slick back hair. He has brown eyes.

Who are your character’s friends and family?

Xavier doesn’t have too many friends. He used to be very good friends with George, but they lost touch when George lost his job at the police station. Ever since then Xavier has had a bad attitude and no one really wants to be around him. He’s kind of a loner and no one knows what changed him. No one knows anything about his family. He doesn’t like to talk about his personal life.

Where does your character live?

Again, Xavier doesn’t like to discuss his personal life. No one knows where Xavier lives, whether it’s an apartment or a house, if he lives alone or with roommates or even with pets.

What is his/her biggest fear?

Xavier’s biggest fear is not being a good detective. He always tries to do the best he can and he doesn’t like to receive help from anyway. He has big plans for his career and hopes he doesn’t mess it up.

Has your character ever been in love and/or had a broken heart?

Xavier has never been in love, but he has had a broken heart. As the author, that’s all I can say for now.

What kind of clothes does he/she wear?

Xavier always wears suits. Even on his day off, he doesn’t like to dress down.

What is he/she doing on his/her day off?

Xavier tries to constantly work. If he’s in the middle of a case and he has a few hours off at the end of the day, he still tries to figure it out. When he’s home, he tries to keep his mind sharp by doing puzzles or riddles. He can’t sit still and always has to be on the move.

What is his/her overall personality like?

Xavier has changed since George left the police station. He used to be friendly and laid back. Now he’s serious and tense which is a turn off for everyone else.

Questions for the Character:

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

“My greatest achievement is becoming a detective. George and I used to be partners, but when he got let go I was bumped up in the ranks. I learned a lot while working with George, but I think I’ve learned more without him. I’m happy I was able to continue doing my best without him.”

What is it that you most dislike?

“I hate being wrong or being helped. George’s new agency is so annoying because he’s always trying to butt into our work. If there’s a case, I can handle. I don’t even need Barney to help me out.”

What is your greatest regret?

“I guess I feel a little bad for not being able to maintain my relationships with my co-workers. But it’s not my fault none of them work as hard as I do.”

What is your best trait?

“I’m great at what I do. I’m an awesome detective, I’ve solved a lot of crimes and I’ve helped a lot of people.”

What is your worst flaw?

“I’ll admit it, I’m not a people person. I’m able to help people when there’s a crime that needs to be solved, but I have a hard time when it comes to dealing with friends or family or anyone else. I don’t know what to do if there’s no evidence.”

What is your hobby?

“Puzzles and riddles. I don’t really enjoy watching TV. Occasionally I will read a book, but I don’t have much time to have a hobby. I work too much.”

Who do you most admire?

“It’s hard to pick someone I admire. There have been some pretty great detectives way back when. I can only hope I can be remembered just as great as those guys.”

March: Inspiration Board

The March #YearOfHappy was to create an inspiration board. The idea was to create an actual board and hang it somewhere where you can look and admire it every day.

I’ll admit I cheated with this one.

I decided to use my virtual board, so to speak. I add things on there all the time, so why not share it with everyone here? It has everything on there that inspires me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a board for it.

That’s right… I’m talking about my Pinterest.

I currently have 93 boards. All are things that inspire me. Here are just a few:

Writing (I have writing, research, vocabulary, names, editing, characters, and blogging)
Teaching (I have a general teaching board, plus many different units in their own individual boards, plus special education)
Sunday School
Reading (I even have a board for the books I’ve read)

Considering that I have 93 boards, that’s not even a dent. I have different video game boards like Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda as well as different movies (The Lord of the Rings) and TV shows (Once Upon A Time).

All 93 boards inspire me in more ways than one. If you don’t know me personally, you would just need to look at my Pinterest profile and you’ll get to know to me in an instant.

So, if you want to see the kinds of things I love then I suggest you check out my Pinterest profile.

I add to my boards all the time and I’m sure there will be more than 93 boards in time.

Outlining: Tips And Ideas

To outline or not to outline… that is the question.

Last week I wrote a post called, “Why Outline?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Why should you outline your novel? I gave a list of a few (good) reasons, but ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to outline your novel or not. It’s no big deal if you decide not to.

However, if you do decide to outline your novel here are a few interesting ways to do so (if you don’t already have a particular way to outline).

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Snowflake Method: Show of hands: who has heard of this before? I have, but have I ever used it? No. I had to do a bit of research for this one because I didn’t really know what it’s about. Basically, it’s a 10-step process on how to organize your writing. You start from a small summary of the novel and go from there. The last step is to begin your first draft.

Now I know it seems like a lot of steps just to go from idea to first draft, but the idea behind it is to start small and take baby steps in organizing your mind and thoughts.

This is to ensure you don’t miss anything while you write the story. All the scenes will be laid out for you, all the characters will be unique and have a certain purpose, and (hopefully) there will be no plot holes.

Does this mean you won’t have to do any editing when the first draft is done? Of course not.

That would be too easy.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Skeletal Outline: You know that pyramid thing you learn in elementary/middle school? Well, some people actually put that to good use when they write their novels.

They use this pyramid (plot diagram, according to the picture) to summarize each part. Each part being the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. By summarizing, you write certain scenes you want, describe what the characters are going to do and what’s going to happen to them, etc.

Some people use bullet points to highlight key concepts in each part. Personally, I think the bullet points would be easier. Then again, it wouldn’t be as detailed… unless you use a lot of bullet points.

Like the Snowflake Method, I do not use this method. To be honest, I don’t even think of my novels in terms of exposition, rising/falling action, climax, resolution, what have you. I just kind of go with the flow and write the scenes in order as they would go.

However, if I had to choose between these two methods, I think I would go for the skeletal outline. I enjoy making lists and the pyramid seems to do just that. Then again, I’m sure you could modify each method to make a unique one that works specifically for you.

20150124_151016Chapter Summary: This is how I used to outline. Way back when I wrote fan fiction. 11 years ago. Wow.

Anyway, I have no idea if anyone has ever outlined like this before, but it worked for me way back when. I don’t use that way now, but I still think it’s a decent way to outline your novel.

All I did was summarize each chapter. It’s that simple. As you can see from the picture, it ultimately looks like a block of letters (especially with my handwriting). The highlighted parts show a new chapter. Everything written after each highlight is a summary of that chapter.

I explain what scenes are going to be in the chapter, sometimes I add in some dialogue I would like some characters to say… I even have notes that say things such as: “foreshadowing… yay!” You know, so I remember how to write my plot so readers can figure out the foreshadowing, symbolism, and all that fun stuff. I especially make those notes when I realize I foreshadowed without meaning to. It’s like your subconscious is smarter than you.

There you have it. Three different ways to outline your novel, plus more (if you click on the links below). Two I’ve never used and one I used to use all the time. Everyone works differently and at their own pace. So the outlines listed above may or may not work for you; especially if outlining isn’t even your thing. However, it never hurts to try.

As stated before (many times, actually) I use my own method I made up. Well, I thought I made it up, but I have seen it floating around on the Internet. It’d be pretty cool if I had my own method, though. It’s different, but similar to the chapter summary I used to do.

But more on that tomorrow.

Further Reading:

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel
8 Ways to Outline a Novel
7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story

Why Outline?

Who actually outlines their novels? I know a well variety of people who outline and people who don’t outline. For the people who do not outline, is that a bad thing? No.

Outlining means to lay your novel out flat before you even begin writing it. You write the basic idea, certain scenes you want, character bios, etc. in a notebook, on the computer, on index cards, what have you. It’s almost as if you’ve mapped out your brain so when you do start writing, you’re able to write, write, write!

Outlining is optional when it comes to writing. It’s not like the first draft stage or the editing stage; you can actually skip the outlining stage. It works for some people, but it doesn’t work for others. Some prefer to freewrite from the get-go and go from there.

Via Google
Via Google

Personally, I find outlining to be a huge help, but even I don’t do it all the time.

I think it depends on the kind of project your writing. When deciding if you should outline your novel before writing, ask yourself:

–Are there going to be a lot of characters that need developing?
–How many different ways can my plot go? Will there be any opportunities where the plot will rip and cause a hole?
–Where are my characters based? Is the setting fiction or based off of a real place?

Of course, there’s also genre to consider. I believe that if you’re writing a mystery or a science fiction/fantasy novel, it always helps to outline. If there’s a lot of information the reader will obtain while reading the novel, how can you as the author be expected to remember it all while writing? That’s how plot holes happen.

As I said, outlining is completely optional. Will it hurt your writing? No, of course not. Does your outline need to be complete before you start your novel? No.

Via Google
Via Google

That’s what I love about outlines; there are no rules. You may not stick to your outline (or your characters might not), but that’s okay. An outline is just a guideline.

You can map out your ideas however you want, where ever you want, whenever you want. If you get stuck on your outline at some point, you can begin writing what you have already outlined. By the time you get to the end of your outline, you should have thought of new ideas to continue on.

When that happens to me, I continue to write and outline as I write. It makes editing a lot easier for me.

Speaking of editing… outlining is a great way to help edit; not just help with the first draft.

Once you finish your first draft, you can always refer back to your outline to look up certain characters, change some scenes around, etc.

All in all, outline helps you further understand your novel.

Related Articles:

How to Make a Novel Outline
Writing an Outline of Your Novel
Outlining Your Novel: Why and How

You Are the Protagonist

“Every lie is built upon a kernel of truth.” –Henry Spencer, Psych

Fiction is a lie. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no Hogwarts, no Narnia, and no Shire. We all wish they exist (especially the men), but alas they don’t. We’re stuck on Earth with seven billion other people–95% of those other people don’t even know you exist.

Without these fictional places and characters, life would be pretty boring. There would be no imagination, no creativity, and no pretending. Such a sad life.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

However, if fiction doesn’t exist… where does it come from?

Surely J.K. Rowling didn’t actually attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a past life and of course C.S. Lewis didn’t discover a new world in his wardrobe when he was a child.

They created and imagined it. So, where does that creation come from? I’m going to point you back to the top of this post and look at a quote from my TV Dad, Henry Spencer (from Psych) who once said, “Every lie is built upon a kernel of truth.”

Fiction is the same way–authors put a little of themselves into their writing. It is from there that inspiration sparks an idea. An idea becomes a novel.

I’m sure if you knew your favorite author personally, you would be able to pick up small truths here and there in their fiction. For example, YA author Sarah Dessen is coming out with a new book this May. As her husband read the novel, she tweeted:

Writers have a way of taking reality and playing around with it until it’s something no one has ever imagined. However, they’re still sane enough to throw in a few bits of real life.

To me, that shows readers what the authors are into; things they like, things they don’t like. Often, when writers add themselves into a story, they get added in as a character. For me, I’m usually the protagonist. My protagonists tend to either have a similar personality, looks, age, or sometimes a mixture.

It doesn’t have to be a character, though. It can be anything like an object, a setting, a plot, or even an occupation. I tend to have a character who writes or teaches for a living because those are two of my passions.

I think that makes writing all the more fun and reading all the more like a puzzle. The questions will never be answered unless you talk to the author personally, but I’m sure there are some novels out there that would be easy to try to guess. Some truths are easier than others.

Further Reading:

7 Authors Who Wrote Themselves into Their Work
What’s Your Opinion?
Six Real Life Authors Who Made Themselves Into Fictional Characters

Slightly Ahead Again

I sat down this morning at my computer and wrote another 3,004 words for my NaNo. My current word count is 34,038 which makes me ahead of about 700 words or so.

I’m writing a collection of short stories (really short… each is about 1,000 words long). I’ve been using different prompts I find in books and on the Internet. A few prompts were really good and I can see them becoming novels. Maybe they will some day. Some of the prompts… well, you can tell I was just trying to get the words down.

This morning, instead of doing a prompt I wrote a quick scene with George and Lilah from my novel Detective Florence. This scene has nothing to do with the novel at hand. In fact, it’s an idea for an upcoming two/three-book series for the characters. I always imagined having a case in each novel that surround one larger case that takes two or three books to solve. I have a few cases in mind which means that so far George and Lilah are going to be in at least four different series (minimum eight books, maximum 12 books… and ideas are still coming).

The scene I wrote this morning is from one of those cases. By doing that, I came up with so many more ideas for that case. I planned on that being the fourth case in the series, but I may end up writing it as the second one. We’ll see how it turns out.

Because, you know… I still have to finish up the first case which will probably be two novels. I planned on a trilogy, but George and Lilah didn’t want to work on the case for that long. I have to write the third book, but it will most likely tag onto the second book, which is in the middle of the edits.

Once NaNo is over, George and Lilah are going to get my undivided attention. So I think it helped that I was able to write a quick scene with the two of them this morning.

I Want To Write

Now that I’ve officially decided what I want to write for NaNo, I’m more excited than ever to get started. Of course, NaNo is still eight days away. It seems so far away, but it’s actually right around the corner. November will arrive before we know it, but I feel as though next week is going to drag at the same time.

Now that I have a new idea, I think I’ve got my muse back and I just want to write all the time and actually have the motivation to do so. It’s a good thing I finished my homework for this week so I can come home from work today and just write.

Tomorrow is Saturday so Kris and I will be going to Barnes and Noble. I’m going to bring Lucy and bang out a few Short Story Sundays. That way I don’t have to worry about trying to write those and my NaNo at the same time next month. Plus, I’m hoping that will get my creative flow going to prepare for NaNo’s short stories to come.

I already came up with two ideas, but I don’t know how they’re going to unfold. I’m just going to let the characters figure it out themselves. I just know how each story is going to begin and that’s it for now. It will sure be interesting.

Again, NaNo is eight days away… eight more days….