Lunatic Mistress

This is not a real bar and is actually an author site.

On Character Personalities

In my early days of character creation, I had a simple litmus test.  I would write a scene in a place I knew (Usually a Denny's, one with a full bar, more on that later), with my problem characters and I sitting in a booth.  Denny's because they all look the same, so I didn't have to deal with setting overmuch.

You can figure out a lot about what makes a person tick by what they order at a Denny's, which is why the full bar is key.  Why do they order a drink at 1AM?  Why don't they?  Why do they steer clear of the Moons Over My Hammy?

These days the Denny's test supplements my character research using horoscopes, Western, Lunar, and Blood Type Theory, as well as finding a character's MBTI type.  That last isn't so simple, as I have to pre-select a type based on what I think would work, then cross-reference with the actual test.  And even with that, while one of the characters in my current project fit into her type rather easily, the other didn't like the ISFJ type I ended up with for him.  

And then the Denny's dialogue happened. And I've learned, when my characters "talk" to me (on paper, of course) there's usually a good reason - I'm going against their character.

"That's not right,"  he says. 

So I ask what's up. 

"I'm not a doormat.  ISFJ's are doormats. I don't get taken advantage of."  He's drinking bottled water, because Los Angeles water is gross (My view, not necessarily his.  He doesn't care one way or the other).  Sugary drinks aren't his thing, nor is hard liquor like the tequila I'm drinking across the booth from him.  He's usually on-call, so he doesn't like anything messing with his senses.

"Interesting that of all the traits in the profile you focused immediately on being taken advantage of."  I take a bite of my Lumberjack Slam (no toast). I DO love the crispy hash browns, and because this is fiction, I smear an extra helping of country sausage gravy over everything.  Fictional calories don't count!  Doesn't stop him from watching me ingest a heart attack on a plate and not comment.  He's a smart man.

"Don't psychoanalyze me.  I'm serious.  I love my job, I'm good at it, and I'm loyal, yada yada.  But the description even takes that and turns it negative--"

"You'd follow Margot to her grave if you had to."

"You're right, that's a negative."  He sighs, and he runs his hand through his hair.

"You think so?"  I take a small, tiny sip of my fictional tequila, because really, this is what I ordered it for.  Sometimes, my characters and I take shots if it gets real emotional.  

So this went on for about 7 pages, and at the end of it I got a pretty good sense of who he is, what he does on his off days, and why he'd follow Margot to the grave.

Over the years I've tried a while slew of exercises designed to help me know my characters (the sundry sites that force you through 100+ character questions still makes me twitch), but this is the method that's worked for me.

No method is the best, of course.  I'd love to read about what works for you!


On Baseball and Hope

I attribute my absence directly to the existence of March.  March, you see, is Spring Training, and the beginning of Baseball. I wasn't raised to be this way, though my dad and I voraciously watched Tokyo Giants games because it was on TV all the time, but when I lived in Japan, my relatives there sucked baseball up (if an IV was possible they'd probably have used that).  More importantly, being in Japan introduced me to the world of baseball, H2 and Cross Game are something else.

But I digress.  Baseball, for all its warts, is about hope.  Well, it's about a lot of things, but for the purpose of this blog, it's that you still have a chance to win as long as you have at least one out left.  

So the odds of a chasm-wide comeback victory in baseball are slim - 12 run deficits were only overcome in only a handful of games - but a "regular" comeback victory, those are much more common in baseball, especially since, again, it's theoretically possible to win until the last out is recorded.  Watching a 1-0 game is excruciatingly tense, and groan-inducing if your team comes out of that with a loss.

Here's where I segue into writing.  Of course, like many writers, I'd love to be published by one of the big five and make enough money to be able to to quit my day job (just so you know, working for an indie publisher does squat for your writing career unless you write what they're looking for, though it DOES give you insight into how the slush pile works...and you'd better have an amazing social media platform because they don't have the marketing budget to be able to support you as much as you'd like), but the odds are pretty slim.  Say what you will about needing to edit, and find beta-readers, and editing again to have a polished manuscript... after you've done all those things, you still have to find the right agent to send the right query letter to, at precisely the right time (ie not when s/he's tired at the end of the day, and you're at the end of the queue for the day) they've opened their email inbox.  And then, you have to resonate with said agent two more times: the partial (kudos to the agent that asks for up to 50 pages at the outset, it saves us both some time), and the full.  Sure, you can have a polished manuscript waiting for a home, but if it doesn't resonate you're going to get the "Thanks, but this isn't for me" letter.

It took me a LONG time to take those letters as a compliment.  You truly want someone who believes they can sell your work to represent it.  Someone who loves it but who can't think of a place they can sell it will not be able to help you (and these were, IMHO, the most heartbreaking rejection letters I've received - they genuinely liked my manuscript).

Back to baseball.

These days, I spend some time working on my current project, working my day job (I'm going to be real honest here and say I'm going to keep working a day job for as long as I can... I can't think of any other way I'd have enough social interaction on my own to be able to come up with new novel material), and sending out queries for my previous project.  The querying, especially, is a slog, there's no other word for it.  After my requisite time spent in front of my computer I turn on the TV and watch some baseball.  Because a come-from-behind victory tastes especially sweet after an hour of slogging through form emails; it reminds me to hope, and to Never. Stop. Writing.

On Oil-Filled Space Heaters

It's been cold lately. 

Oh, I suppose it's all relative; for example, the weather here is an Unmentionable, comparable to the likes of Valdemort, when speaking to my East Coast Friends...though I suppose in this case I'm not afraid of one of the Unforgivable Curses, and instead... the pity.

"Oh, honey.  it's 37 degrees over there?  Well, we just had a blizzard and sleet and it was raining muskrats and also the kids had a day off from school because insert random apocalyptic event here.  You Californians are too cute!"

And if I mentioned that to my friends in Hawaii they'd be zipping up their parkas just thinking about it.

But I digress.  Today's blog topic is about procrastination.  

I've received a lot of writing advice over the years, and by far the most common, and the most irritating to hear is, "write a little something every day".  Irritating because you know. Obviously you won't get your project finished if you don't work on it.  DUH.   It's like someone standing next to you at the train stop pointing at the sky and saying, "it's blue", (DUH) when what you really want to know is, What type of cloud is that?  Is it actually Karl?  Strange that that murder of crows just flew across the sky.  Is that a sign? When's the train coming, because this person just randomly told me the sky was blue and I want to sit far, far away from him on this train.

These are my thoughts as an example.  You probably won't have the same thoughts, nor would some random person speak to you in this manner.  Best to gauge the situation and move away from said person if you're not comfortable, by the way.  Be safe and aware!

But yes.  That Advice.  So you see that piece of advice is incomplete, because it should actually go like this: "Write every day.  DO NOT STRESS if it's only a sentence, a word, or an idea, you are NO LESS OF A PERSON for not having written enter insanely large number here pages today because you are working on your project! AND DON'T EXPECT IT TO BE PERFECT!  It will not be, so there. That's what future edits are for."

I'm still trying to follow this advice, every day.  It's rough going, because there are days where my mind will come up with any little excuse to avoid imperfect writing, like cleaning the house, or OH that new recipe in the latest Bake From Scratch magazine I've been meaning to try, or that paint drying on the wall is so fascinating or... Squirrel!

Or fingers being too cold to write.

37 degrees, my East Coast Friends. 

It sure feels cold to me.

I live in an old, drafty house, and we are saving money by not turning on the central heat because well, it's expensive.  And ineffective.

But my mind has a point about the cold fingers.  So I'm waiting for my oil-filled space heater to come in the mail, and in the meantime I'm getting to work early to write, because there's central heating there.  Yesterday I wrote a full three paragraphs and it was glorious.

Perhaps, sometime in the future, I'll go deeper into perfection and how your mind will never think it exists in your writing, and so you have to distract it with things, otherwise you're working on that same project for years.  It's wasteful, and your mind has a habit of making you feel discouraged and ready to throw in the towel.

But this is a blog post about procrastination and cold fingers.  So we'll save that for another day, hopefully when my oil-filled space heater arrives.