Thursday, March 10, 2011

Juggling Characters

When I was eight I begged my mom to take me to a tight rope walker audition after I found an advertisement in our local paper. Does this surprise you at all? Not if you’ve come to know me it shouldn’t.

I love to try new things, take on exciting adventures, and balance like no writer has balanced before.

But it’s tricky and now that I’m editing one novel while writing another, I find it’s rather easy to drop some balls.

What helps me keep my characters straight? Well, I whip out my handy dandy notebooks (thanks to Blues Clues I’ll forever have that etched in my mind) and I review my notes. But there’s more to juggling characters than keeping them straight.

Here are other aspects I need to juggle while taking on the complicated challenge of editing and writing two different works:

Tame InconsistenciesIn the unfortunate event I begin to tangle character traits and other such details between the two WIPs, I must find ways to domesticate this process enough to delineate what’s happening to whom.

Motivation StationI have to refresh my memory of my MC’s motivation in each scene. Doing this helps me balance better.

Acrobatic Ease & FlowJust as acrobats practice their swings in the air so they appear flawless and fluid, I have to cultivate a certain kind of flow with the work I’m tackling at present.

Mood Rings TrueEach MS has a mood I aim to capture. As I sit to either write or edit, I close my eyes and imagine myself in the scene. This injects me right into the mood of the piece.

No Clashing under the Big TopI confess, I can’t write and edit in one sitting. I usually need an hour between working on each project. My schedule right now consists of editing in the morning and writing in the afternoon.

Keep the Bears & Odd Characters DancingThere’s a certain mystery that brings each project together, a dance shall we say. And as all writers know, the editing dance is entirely different than the writing dance. An editing dance has sharp, calculated moves while the writing dance is free flowing and daring. The point is not to quit—to keep dancing.

Fire Swallowing Plots
With each work my ultimate goal is to have the reader feel the fire of the piece in their belly. In order to accomplish this, I need to douse each plot with an ample amount of conflict and seamlessness. Upon sitting to write or edit, I reengage with the plot, I reassess where I want my characters to move—the fires I want them to swallow.

Have you ever tried to juggle characters from two different WIPs—editing and writing at the same time? What helped the process go more smoothly for you?

*photo from Flickr
**this is the 300th post here at the Alley!


Christine Long said...

I haven't had trouble with two different WIPs, but I have had problems with editing and forgetting the name of a minor character or the name of a fictional location. I was editing my current work and discovered I changed the name of the town three times throughout the work. I also couldn't remember the name of the woman who owned the diner. She's only in three scenes but she's pivotal to the plot. So I can only imagine how much fun it is to keep everything straight in two different works.

Mary Vee Writer said...

And then--throw in other writing projects like blogs, church newsletter articles, book reviews, etc. It can be an Abbott and Costello day! (Who's on first, What's on second)

Keli Gwyn said...

Wendy, I can sooo imagine you asking your mom to take you to the tightrope-walking tryouts. You have a knack for being willing to go where many would never venture, in life and in your writing. It's one of the many things I love about you.

I'm not the adventurous type, but I'm going to get an opportunity to juggle in the near future, whether I like it or not. I'm working on a new story, but one day I'll receive revision notes from my editor and will have to make a sudden shift to my contracted story. When I do, I'll use some of the techniques you shared in your cleverly written post to help me through the process.

Casey said...

Great post Wendy!! And to think it rang in our 300th post!!! :D We've done a lot in a short time..

But anyway..

YES I am right where you are right now. I am editing one WIP and writing the next. And I have found that I have to do what demands the most attention, and right now with this class I'm taking it's the editing. But hopefully next week I'll squeeze in a bit of writing. :)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Christine, Yeah, there's no hope with me and names. Usually I have that problem right after meeting someone.

Mary, You aren't kidding. Painting the bedroom now, taking on a volunteer role as coordinator for a worthy cause, etc. That list could go on and on!

Keli, All I need to say is that you better be going to the next ACFW. If you say yes, than I'm so there! ;)

Casey, When I saw that 300 I couldn't resist. Had to include it. Editing swallows so much of my time. I breeze through novels only to find myself going slowly through the editing stage.

Thanks for adding to the conversation. I think I have Water for Elephants on the mind. Excited to see the movie. Loved the book.

~ Wendy

Keli Gwyn said...

Wendy, I'm planning on attending the ACFW Conference, and I've got a great BIG hug with your name on it, my friend. =)

Pepper said...

Oh Wendy,
What a fab post!!!
And yes - I juggle more than one ALL OF THE TIME!! Sometimes as many as FOUR! (It's insane)
I have to take a mental break between to switch modes, especially if I'm going from one genre to another.
Now, as weird as it sounds, I find it's good for my writing to take a mental break from one ms to work on another.
Do you ever find that to be true? Or is it just me and my weird brain? :-)