Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What a character!

Before I get into my character post, let's get the whole school thing out of the way.

I started classes last night. Things went well and I even saw some people I know (which is always nice). The class promises to be interesting, not too tough, but not easy either. We have a research paper to write, 10 hours of class time to observe (to make notes on teaching style and classroom management skills), and a chapter to teach (each student in the class has to teach one of the chapters in the textbook . . . I chose chapter 10).

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it and yet am a bit nervous (especially about the teaching a chapter part). I'm currently taking two courses, but am thinking of adding a third.

Here's why:

The instructor of last night's class also teaches a children's literature class. I had debated taking the course from the beginning. It looked like an interesting class, but it's not required for my degree (and I'm not sure it would even count for anything). After talking with the instructor last night (she teaches at my kids' school and taught my oldest son when he was in third grade so we know each other pretty well), she thinks it would be beneficial to have someone in the class who is familiar with the author side of children's literature. Right now, the class focuses on the different genre's of children's literature and each student will choose a book in the discussed genre to read and then discuss with the class.

My first thought was, "Wow, I could promote some of my blogger friends' books" . . . it's awful of me to think that, right? Well, if you're one of my blogger friends, you may think that's a great thought. ;-) So, I'm once again considering the class as an option.

Okay, so that's school life . . . On to the character aspect of this post.

As I caught up on blogs this morning, I came across one in particular that got me thinking. annastan posed the question, "How unique should a character be?" You can go here to read her thoughts on the subject (and I think you should).

Characterization is one of my many weaknesses (at least I think so). I'm great at plotting and action scenes (that's what I've been told), but I've always had a difficult time transferring my characters onto the page.

I've wondered why. It's not that I don't care about them, I do. Still, I tend to concentrate on plotting and action (a bit too much perhaps) in my first revisions. Maybe I should concentrate more on the characters first and then worry about plotting.?!

I usually have a vague idea of the characters (what they want, why they want it), but mostly it's the plot (what if this happened to someone in this situation) that comes to me first. The characters are fleshed out as the plot comes along.At least it seems that way to me.  Maybe I only think I do it this way. Maybe the characters are more in my mind from the beginning than I think they are. For example, with my current WIP (Wolfsbane at Midnight), the character and plot came to my mind at the same time . . . in a way.

Here's what happened (as Mr. Monk would say):

One morning last year while driving my oldest and some of his friends to school, we were talking about fairy tales. I can't remember the conversation exactly, but I vaguely recall getting on the subject of bedtime stories and fairy tales. I think someone must have mentioned warping fairy tales and then one of son's friends--we'll call her Mary to protect her identity--mentioned Little Red Riding Hood. I thought, "Now there would be a fun story to change up." and the what if's began.

What if the big bad wolf were a werewolf? What if Little Red fell in love with the one who killed her grandmother (not knowing he was a werewolf, of course).

And when I got home, I came up with Scarlet for Little Red's name, researched names for the other characters, and had more what if questions (What if Little Red came from a long line of witches but didn't have any powers herself? What if being a werewolf were a curse with a cure? Etc.). Then I did a basic chapter by chapter outline. I researched herbs and witches, etc. and when November came, I used NaNoWriMo to write. And WOLFSBANE AT MIDNIGHT was born.

So maybe my characters do come in some form at first, but I still have trouble getting my characters transferred from my mind to the page.

Anyway, I wondered how others do it. You've probably been asked before (and maybe even by me), but what comes first for you, character or plot?


Write on.


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