Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hi, my name is Dawn, and I'm an anal-organizational freak. (Everyone: Hi Dawn.)

It's true, I admit it.  I am anal when it comes to organizing my life and plans.  My friends call me rainman.  But I didn't really see it for myself until earlier this week.  A writer friend asked me how I was doing my packets for school.  I proceeded to tell her exactly how I was handling this semester, and when I finished I realized how completely psycho it sounded!  

As you know, I have to send in a packet each month to my faculty advisor containing 20 pages of new writing, 20 pages of revision, 2 critical essays, and an annotated bibliography of at least 10 books.  Well, I wanted to try as many new things as possible this semester, so my plan is to do something different with each packet.  Packet 1 was all about picture books.  I read 23 (?) of them, my essays were on topics surrounding them, and I wrote 7 of them (some better than others!).  

Packet 2 was all about Middle Grade novels.  I read 20 of them, my essays involved them, I wrote 20 pages of a new MG novel, and revised my completed MG novel.  

For my third packet, I'll be working on a new YA and revising PBs.  

The 4th packet will be sci-fi/horror/fantasy.  

And the 5th will be creative non-fiction/historical fiction.  

So by the end of the semester, I'll have one completed and revised MG, 3 completed and revised PBs, and the beginnings of a YA, a MG, a Sci-fi or horror YA/MG novel, and a creative non-fiction or historical fiction YA/MG novel.  Then next semester I can focus in a little more on the things I enjoyed most.  I'd love to have all of those beginnings completed by graduation, at least in first drafts.

That's my plan.  I know-rainman.  
What are you rainman-ish about?  Do you ever get anal about your writing life?  Or are you free and spontaneous?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Preparing packet #2

Packet 2 is due next week-the 11th-and I have one essay left.  My first essay was entitled:  I Hate This Character.  So Why Am I Still Reading?  I asked the question, does the reader have to like the protagonist?  So many times, we writers hear how we need to make the protagonist "likable", "identifiable", or "interesting".  I agree the main character needs to be interesting, especially if he's not easy to like or identify with.  Emotion is such an important part of every story, and we must feel something for the characters or we won't bother reading the story.  But can we hate that main character?  

I think it's ok to hate the character, as long as it's a believable character and we hate them the way we'd hate a person in real life.  If we hate them because they are too flat, or they say things that don't fit with their personality, then we will stop reading.  But if we hate them because we believe they are doing/saying horrible things, and we believe they really would say/do these things, then we, as readers, are eager to keep reading to see what they will say/do next.  Does that make sense?  

I used the example of Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen.  His main character, Cole, is despicable, but we believe he would be that way because of his home life.  The motivation makes sense with his personality.  Still, the reader Hates him until he changes about midway through the book.  The reader doesn't really sympathize with him until he begins to realize how awful he's been.

In my MG novel, the main character says and does horrible things because she is so angry and sad and guilty over the loss of her sister.  I think, I hope, I've painted her in a realistic fashion and that readers will stick around to see if she can get past all these emotions.  In fact, my advisor read a particular scene and said she wanted to slug my character.  I think that's good, because it means she believes in this character.  I think any time we can get the reader to feel a strong emotion about our characters because of who they are or what they've done in the story, we have accomplished our goal of capturing the reader's attention.

Do you have any unlikable characters in your stories?