Monthly Archives: April 2012

Interviewing your characters – what they say might surprise you

It isn’t the idea of a writer interviewing her characters that frightens most people; it’s the thought that somehow they might answer. They do answer. And sometimes I don’t like what they have to say, but I have learned that character interviews, like bios, are essential to understanding–and sometimes getting along with–the people who populate my imagination and stories.

To the average person, this sounds ridiculous; but to writers, dealing with imaginary peope who sometimes don’t get along is just another fun and challenging aspect of our job.

During my junior year at college I wrote a sci-fi political thriller with a story based on real life events. It was a cool, high-concept thriller. Think big budget summer blockbuster. I could visualize it…my only problem being, for whatever reason I couldn’t seem to “connect” with the protagonist, Riley. (I am still on an “R” streak when it comes to naming my protagonists, as they have all been given names starting with the letter R — but that’s another story).

I asked my professors for guidance, and after doing extra credit character development assignments, etc., I still did not feel like I knew Riley as well as I needed to in order to immerse myself in his story. With character development being my strong point, this irritated me terribly and thus, I was angry at Riley. My writing skills were suffering for it. If I couldn’t see the character and hear how he would speak, I couldn’t write the scenes convincingly. So I took him out of the story for the moment and wrote a scene as I would for a novel using full narratives rather than short action blocks of description as was required in the script. I let my protagonist, Ria, from The Roslin Effect, “interview” Riley. I know Ria’s personality inside out, and her fun, energetic personality worked well in contrast to his shyness. She asked him about his life, his story, his girlfriend, etc., and the scene went on and on; and with it, through a character I knew and loved, I began to feel as though I knew Riley as well.

I was working with one of my favorite professors, who is am amazing creative mind, and when I told her about the interview she congratulated me on the idea, and thought it could be a useful tool to other writers facing a similar dilemma with character development.

The interview doesn’t have to be a long scene; make it however long you like. Have fun with it. Where do your characters meet? What does the place look like? Has one of them been there before? Are they happy about it? Or not? Why? It’s amazing how much you can learn about them in one simple scene. Take it out of the context of your story and see how the characters react in new surroundings.

The doors to creativity are endless, and I encourage anyone suffering from writer’s block or just struggling with a character or scene to try this exercise.


Why I love writing about werewolves – (excerpt)

The scent of blood drove him mad. He rolled off the bed, body convulsing, more froth coming from his mouth. He reached for me, his claws digging into the floor as he crawled towards me, desperate to reach the blood. I shouted for the Baron to help me, but there was no answer. Again I called for him—or the guards I’d seen outside—anyone who could help me.

And then he just stopped. He was still, curled up in the fetal position, eyes closed, hands in tight, bleeding fists. Dead still. Bleeding because his nails were cutting into his palms and he didn’t realize it, didn’t stop.

I approached him carefully and knelt down to see if by some chance he was still breathing. At first I thought he wasn’t, and I was relieved his suffering was over…but then I saw the veins in his hands and arms pulsing, twice as fast as mine, even under the circumstances. I could almost hear the blood pumping through him. It was moving too fast, too hot.

I knew what would happen next, and that I needed to escape before it did.

I rushed to the door. I yelled that I needed help. But alas, nothing. I glanced back at the boy, and his eyes snapped open. Suddenly yellow with huge black pupils, wide open, no expression. Not human. His skull changed then too: his jaw grew into a wolf’s long pointed muzzle, his eyeteeth turned to fangs. Then his limbs contorted with wet snapping sounds, stretching out in unnatural positions, bones growing and breaking and growing again as he changed from human to animal. And with these new limbs and claws he rolled on the floor in agony and tore his skin away piece by piece until it was replaced by thick gray fur. During the transformation he had grown as well, and when he stood up he was nearly my height. And all things human about him were gone.

The werewolf stood upright, licking the blood from his hands, which were now like elongated paws.  I grabbed the doorknob in hopes I could rattle the lock free—or at least get the attention of someone downstairs. But then suddenly he was on all fours, and with one powerful leap he’d crossed the room. Fangs bared, arms out in front of him, he threw me against the bedpost. As we tumbled backwards I grabbed his fur and swung him away from me. I didn’t know what else to do, but I didn’t have the power to destroy or cure him.

I had one goal, only one: to save myself. I was no longer concerned with helping him or what the outcome may be if I killed him. There is no cure for Lycanthropy, and with every transformation he would become less and less human until ultimately he would never be able to change back.

There was no way out.  I ran back to the door, but he was snarling and clawing at me as I held him back. When I took hold of the door-handle, he had nearly bitten my bleeding hand. The warmth of his breath passed over my skin. Maybe he did bite me. I didn’t know. His mouth grazed me as I threw him backwards into the candelabra. As it crashed down and the molten tallow spread across the floor, so did the fire, and within seconds the curtains and bedding erupted in flames.

The Embarrassment

What is it that has lead to the sudden upsurge in their image? It didn’t take very long for them to evolve from a dungeon dwelling monster to the  ultimate sex symbol that they portray today.
It wasn’t long ago when a friend of mine would go, “Eww, he’s drinking blood.” and “that’s gross” while watching the old Dracula classics but now invite her to watch a twilight movie and she’ll swoon all the way to the theater thinking about the vampire hunks. And then there is my freakishly hysterical cousin who believes that she’ll someday marry a vampire(Weird? tell me about it).

Its not that I despise these unreal fantasized creatures, after all even women deserve to have a muse that they can gush about and fantasize all day. But a midst all this hysteria where does the common man lie?! Ask a woman out on a date and the…

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Using music for inspiration – underground hip hop beats

I think I speak for most writers when I say that music can be a huge inspiration during the writing process. It can awaken the Muse, motivate you to create a certain character, and put an end to hours of toiling over a blank Word document. It’s a cure for Writer’s Block (at least for me).

I create playlists for every project, and somtimes go a step further by using one song for each chapter or sequence–however it works out. I’ve used everything from alternative rock to feature film scores and obscure piano pieces. Then I discovered underground hip hop beats.

Check out:

I have listened to and enjoyed many underground hip hop beats, but Dasonn Beats are by far the best. Not much else I can say. They’re awesome.

Fellow writers: what songs and artists inspire you during your writing process, and why?

Werewolves: when things get hairy; and vampires – dead lay, or not?

Today I came across a synopsis for a book in the werewolf erotica genre. Is it just me, or does the thought of such evoke a sense of gross-ness? Can’t imagine what it must be like to write those love scenes; the foreplay alone must be challenging. I don’t see how you can romanticize hairy, doggy-style action.

Along those same lines, it took a long time for me to accept the idea that vampires could have sex. Not that it bothered me, mind you; on the contrary, vampires are very sexy creatures so I wanted to find a means to explore their sexual nature in a way that didn’t involve feeding. I’ve always been of the opinion that a vampire’s sexual pleasure is derived from feeding, nothing else. Never mind that we as writers have the power to make anything happen in our characters’ universe. I don’t play God with mine. I didn’t want to make it happen without good reason, and without due consideration.  I did a lot of research, and practicially speaking (I know we’re dealing with fantasy here), I couldn’t accept that the undead could–you know–get it on.

But I wanted them to. I needed it to be possible in order to move the plot forward; and my protagonist giving in to that sexual need was an essential part of the character arc he must follow. At least as I saw it. So I quit thinking scientificially. I quit trying to rationalize how, if vampires have no blood of their own and no heartbeat…oh, you get the idea. I still haven’t figured it out, but I quit trying to explain it.

I wrote several vampire-on-vampire (bad pun I know), sex scenes, but what I mean to illustrate is that no mortals were involved. Strictly vampires. I let the characters do and feel everything they’d been supressing, and it turned out beautifully.

Now, here is the irony: after I completed the manuscript with these steamy scenes interwoven seamlessly into the storyline and, essential to the plot as I saw it, the publisher decided the book would be best suited for YA as opposed to classic horror/fantasy. So, there went my sex (or love for you romantics who want it to sound more meaningful) scenes, over which I’d agonized for such a long time. The original manuscript still exists, and I hope to release it as an extended version of the story some day. But a majority of my audience will see the PG version.

The sex is only hinted at now, the scenes glossed over, the bound wrists and ripping of thick Medieval brocaded curtains and passionate exchange of blood a thing of the past.

Oh well. The life of a writer is never an easy one.

The Man from Primrose Lane

on and off book

The Man from Primrose Lane, by James Renner, starts out as a well-done, if garden-variety, crime novel (burned-out true-crime writer delves into a local cold case and rediscovers his passion for his work as well as a host of local secrets). But just when it’s starting to settle in to investigative mode, it starts to show hints of something much weirder. On the one hand, there are Haruki-Murakami-esque touches: an allusion to the quantum physics of time travel here, a few uncanny doppelgangers there, a mysterious robot. On the other hand, there’s Michael-Koryta or even Dean-Koontz-like dips into the fringes of horror: mysterious frog-creatures, an evil spirit hovering over a box containing an executed killer’s personal effects. It encompasses trial testimony and investigative journalism and a spookily precocious kid, and when it starts to tip over into full-blown science fiction territory, it should all just dissolve into a soupy…

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Which would you rather?….

Okay people, help me out: I have 2 different books ready for release within the next couple of months. One is high fantasy/YA; the other is a police thriller…. The question being: which would you rather see first? A fun, stylized cop thriller with lots of levity and snappy dialogue, or an epic, kleenex-clenching fantasy that’ll have you crying off your mascara at 3:00 am? (Okay, that’s just something I like to do–read sad sappy books at 3:00 am, but you never know — it might be a fun pastime for others as well).