Next week, I’ll be attending Debra Dixon’s Book in a Day workshop. I am so excited about this. I’ve read
GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction and found it to be concise and informative. Plus, steamlining my writing process is becoming more and more important as deadlines become tighter. I’m almost ready to start a new project, so the timing couldn’t be better.
Have you ever been to a writing workshop that changed the way you work? What was it and what did you learn?
Have you ever worked months, maybe years, toward a goal you really, truly wanted? I’m talking blood-sweat-and-tear-shedding, sleep-depriving work for this goal in which the pain never bothered you because your excitement and hope blunted it, especially when success was within reach; so close you could stretch out your fingertips and brush the goal’s smooth, pristine surface. Only to have your heart’s desire tip over, fall off the pedestal and shatter on the tile floor into a million teeny tiny pieces? Along with your heart.
If you’re a writer who has received a rejection letter, you understand exactly how I feel.
I really believed this manuscript was the one. The manuscript that would bring my first contract, start my career, drop me on the path toward New York Times bestsellerdom, and keynote speaker at RWA’s national conference. (What, your dreams don’t include being a future keynote speaker?) Anyway…the editor had good things to say about my writing, but thought my twist was a little too different. Argh! (Side rant: I’m beginning to think the NY publishers don’t want “a new twist on an old story” they want “slight curvatures”.) Granted she was only the first editor we’ve heard back from on the new project, and my agent and I still love it and wholeheartedly believe in it, but the rejection knocked me down anyway. What can I say? I’m a sensitive girl. So as I was sinking into the quicksand of self-pity and crushed dreams, I thought about the Daruma I gave my husband for Christmas.
A Daruma is a traditional Japanese wishing doll that helps us achieve our dreams. When you get a Daruma, you set a special goal and then color in one of the doll’s eyes signifying the start of your commitment to work toward achieving it. Then you place Daruma where you can see him everyday – either at home or at work. He motivates you to stay focused on your goal. Once your goal has been achieved, you signify your accomplishment by coloring in his other eye.
Daruma’s are made from papier-mâché, are rounded, hollow, and weighted on the bottom so they will return to their original upright position if tilted or knocked on their side (like a Weeble Wobble – remember those?). Because of this unique ability to right itself, Daruma is associated with the Japanese proverb, nana korobi yaoki, which states, “Fall down seven times, get up eight”. In other words, the proverb and the doll represent persistence and perseverance. Not only is that a good writing motto, it’s a good life motto.
Daruma reminds us to never, ever give up on our dreams. No matter how many rejections we may receive.
Posted in Uncategorized, Writer's Life
Tagged Daruma, daruma doll, doll, fall seven times, get up again, get up eight, goal, goals, japanese wishing doll, KM Fawcett, knocked down, nana korobi yaoki, perseverance, persistence, Rejection, weeble wobble, writing
Happy New Year!
Is it me or is time speeding up? Here we are five days into the new year, and I haven’t figured out my goals yet. Heck, I haven’t even reflected on last year’s goals. Maybe it’s better that way. Last year I had three goals and fell short of them all.
Time to try again…
My goal for 2012 is to start and finish writing a new novel. Since I’m a contender for World’s Slowest Writer, handing my agent a new book before year-end will not be easy. But I think I can speed up productivity if I plot more precisely than I have done in the past. If I spend more time on the story arc, the characters’ goals, motivation and conflict, and the turning points upfront, I should have less fixing and rewriting later on. It can’t hurt, right?
So I download a free trial of the writing program Scrivener. This program seems like a great way to organize my story and keep everything, including research, in one file. I’m still going through the tutorial, but so far it seems pretty good, as long as I can remember how to use all the functions. Perhaps I should sign up for Gwen’s Scrivener class in February.
Well, at least I have one goal to work toward. I still need to determine my karate goals and personal goals (Note to self: include get more sleep on personal goals list). What about you? Do you make goals or resolutions for the New Year? If you’re a writer, do you use writing software? Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?
What makes a good villain? What makes Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege or Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter so intriguing and yet so bone-chilling to watch? Obviously, these two gentlemen are supremely talented actors, but there has to be more to it then that. Without the right ingredients even the best actor in the world can only do so much to bring a character to life. IMO, the qualities that help create a good villain are the same ones that make a good hero/heroine: A solid goal, motivation, conflict and a sharp intelligence.
Just like you don’t want your hero or heroine to be too stupid to live, the same holds true for your villain, unless you’re writing a cartoon. We may get a kick out of Dr. Evil’s antics and cluelessness, but that’s part of what makes the Austin Powers movies so funny. Take Dr. Evil and put him in a dark intense murder mystery and it all falls apart. You want your protagonist and your villain to be on a level playing field intellectually. You don’t want to make it too easy for your villain to be captured, stopped, etc. You want your hero and villain to match wits with each periodically gaining the advantage until the bitter end.
The next piece to the good villain puzzle is a solid goal, motivation, and conflict. If your villain is seeking world domination that’s fine, but he needs a solid reason for wanting world domination. Being mentally unstable is not good enough IMO. I’m not saying that your villain can’t be insane, but that insanity should be a trait that makes him unpredictable and ups the creep factor. It shouldn’t be their sole motivation. Think of Tommy Lee Jones’s character in Under Siege. Sure he’s crazy and he’s greedy. But his betrayal by the government is so deep that it pushes him over the edge. Pushes him to finally turn against what he once defended. He’s highly skilled and very smart and as you watch the movie you see that battle of skill and wits play out until the final battle at the end.
Sometimes the sympathetic villains are even more fun then the irredeemable ones. First because it gives you the potential for another story, but also because you can really ramp up the internal conflict in this character. Think 0f Darth Vader. He starts the Star Wars trilogy on one path, but by the end he’s deeply conflict and winds up turning away from the dark side. Another great example, are the heroine and villain from Maggie Shayne’s book Infinity, a particular favorite of mine. Throughout the whole book you see the villain as mean, spoiled, and selfish. Then you come to learn that everything she did was because she wanted the hero’s love and attention. She was used by both her father and the hero as a means to form a political alliance and all she really wanted was someone to love her. She never had it from her father and when she realized she wasn’t going to get it from her husband either she lashed out. As abhorrent as her behavior was there was something about her that a reader could understand maybe even connect with. This is why it wasn’t that hard to switch gears when she became the heroine in the next story.
Well I’ve rambled on long enough. Why don’t you share with us what you think makes a great villain? Who are some of your favorite bad guys?