Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flexing my Writerly Muscles

I'm closing out this round of the blog chain. Sandra really challenged us by offering us a choice between two topics--or both:

1)Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?

OR:

2)Have you ever written writing exercises? If so, did you find the experience useful? What type of writing exercises were they, and did you do them on your own or as part of a writing class or workshop?

Because it's relevant to my life right now, I've decided to tackle option number 2.

I'm currently working on round 2 of agent revisions. My world building just isn't quite there yet. The who's and why's of my imaginary world need to be set out--definite and firm. I'd held back vital information from the reader. Things I knew in my head and didn't bother to think another person might want to know. Creating rules for my characters to live by is hard. Like, aching brain hard. So, I've used a couple of writing exercises to get the ball rolling.

Two groups of characters in my book, Shaedes of Gray, needed histories. Namely, my Shaedes, and their antithesis, the Lyhtans. Where did they come from? *Amanda scratches her head* How to begin? I wrote their history. I used a cheesy fairy tale format, I told the story like I would read it to my children at bedtime. I used flowery purple prose and antiquated speech. I mean, it's not like any one's ever going to read it. This story was for me, to give me insight into my characters' origins.

Next, I needed to lay out some rules. Such as... What do Lyhtans eat? Where do they live? How do they make money? Where it might not seem relevant to the story itself(it's not like we take a peek inside their daily life) it IS relevant to the world building. And with that thought in mind... How do my supernatural creatures interact with one another? How do they get by in a world populated with humans? How do they govern themselves, who polices them? You can see how this may have triggered a migraine or two. Enter the storyboard! I was going to use this system to plot the next book in the Shaedes series. But I've decided to modify it and use my storyboard as a world building board. Sticky notes, headers, Sharpy markers, and viola! Rules and lifestyles mapped out and ready for me to incorporate into my novel.

In fact, the storyboarding is working so well for me right now, I can't imagine starting another novel without one! Character biographies as well have become an indispensable part of my writing process. Do you use writing exercises? Storyboards? What works for you and what doesn't? I'd love to know!

12 comments:

Stephanie McGee said...

For my current WiP, I knew I needed a history. There's a natural element to our world that factors in quite heavily to the paranormal world I'm creating. So, I delineated the major points of history for that. How they came to be, what the true meaning is, etc.

Character bios have been a must for me since my last WiP and they're quite helpful.

I've never done writing exercises or storyboards, though. I'll have to investigate.

Christine Fonseca said...

Yep - storyboarding, outlining, etc...always helps with the holes! Nice job Amanda

Sarah Bromley said...

All I have to say is I can't wait to see what you do with it. You're almost there, girl.

Michelle H. said...

That is very thought-out! Creating a history, it can apply to anyone's characters. I'm usually a panster, I never outline. But I do try to, at least, know the gist of the character and the timeline of the unfolding plot.

Suzyhayze said...

Great job. I'll have to try that story board thing. ;)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

World-building is very important, especially when dealing with different SF characters. The story boarding sounds like a good way to keep things consistent from book to book.

Thanks to everyone on the Blog Chain for their discussions on my topics!

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I love writing backgrounds to stories. I use wiki's to keep track of worlds. They're invaluable for piecing together all the information. And then, when I'm in the thick of writing and make something up, I can go back and add to the wiki later.

Cole Gibsen said...

I'm so bad about storyboarding - but now I feel inspired to start! Good luck on your revisions, I know you'll do great :)

nomadshan said...

You're smart to use a fairy tale technique to write the history. That's an exercise I use if words aren't flowing like they should - I think the conventions of it (once upon a time, the narrator's voice, etc) are so ingrained that the inner storyteller can let loose.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I hear you on the worldbuilding- this has been a HUGE part of my own rewrites on my urban fantasy, it really gives me a whole new appreciation for really intricately written fantasy novels and all the work that must go into them.

Eric said...

I so admire people who can do this type of thing. Worldbuilding, I mean. I have tried this from time to time, but usually I find it all too daunting. I mean, there's just so much you have to figure out or create. It scares me LOL. Nice post though.

B.J. Anderson said...

I absolutely LOVE the storyboard. I have a whiteboard that I plot out my books on and I'd be in so much trouble without it. Wonderfully awesome post.