Thursday, January 24, 2013

Letting Pushy Characters Take Control, Part Two

Even though characters help authors turn good stories into great ones, some characters have their own ideas about what’s going to happen next – regardless of what the authors’ story outline says.
Case in point: April Schaures, a personality in our most recent Silverville project, The Magicke Outhouse. Created as an afterthought to complement the story’s protagonist, April pushed her way into the plot as one of the most colorful characters who’s ever visited Silverville. It was creepy, like she was waiting in the wings for a casting call. Creepy because she “possessed” us both at the same time, with surprising flair that seemed to come from nowhere. April really challenges our notion of where we thought characters originate. Even stranger, neither of us has ever known a character like April. But there she was on the page. In the passage below, she’s shining her new supervisor:

April climbed the stairs and opened the heavy door of the Silverville Public Library.
An older woman standing behind the circulation desk looked up. Had to be Miss Brumbelow, head librarian. The woman smiled and said, “Can I help you with anything?”
April marched to the desk and thrust out her hand. “I’m April.”
The smile melted into a frown. “Your internship started yesterday.”
“Didn’t you get my message?” The one I never sent.
“No, I don’t recall any messages from you.”
April forced a cough and drew a tissue from her pocket. “Really? You didn’t get my note about my recent relapse?”
Miss B appeared to wait for more of an explanation, which April was happy to provide.
“The Uruguayan Flying Worm Syndrome. It flared up again.”
“Excuse me? Uruguay?  I understood you were from Placer City.”
“That’s where I grew up, after a traveling circus brought me into the United States and my parents adopted me.” April blew her nose long and hard into the tissue. “I caught the worm before that, when I was only six. Most people die from it. I was lucky.”
The librarian’s eyes narrowed. “Is it contagious?”
“Not once the worms work their way out of your system. Mine have.” April offered a long-suffering shrug. “But once you get it, it stays with you the rest of your life.”
“Is that why your pupils are so … so pink?”
April bent her head and plucked a small disk from one eye and held it up on her finger for the woman to inspect. “Colored contacts.”
While April replaced the theatrical lens, Miss B heaved a disappointed sigh and retrieved a sheet of paper from under the desk. “Here are the responsibilities I’ve typed up for you.” She handed it to her new intern and motioned her to follow.

We didn’t write April’s dialog; she did. In fact, she just sort of grabbed the reins and ran. We often find that a particular character will determine the direction of a plot. Characters tell us what they need, what they have to say, and where they will and will not go. Unlike April, most of our characters need fleshing out, but once we get to know them, we trust them to guide us to the end of the story. All three novels in the Silverville Saga have taken various twists and turns we hadn’t anticipated as the characters took on lives of their own. We almost felt like spectators rather than writers, our job merely to record what was going on in their universe.


  1. That must keep the writing fun. I've heard painters describe their art the same way-- the canvas and colors lead them.

  2. Kim and Mark - See what great grammarians can pump out? This was, without a doubt, the best excerpt I've read in a long, long, oh-so-long time. SO refreshing!

    Believe me when I tell you that this is not just me being a matter of fact, sometimes my honesty can be too brutal, so I've learned to be quiet when I don't care for something. Or at the very least, short and as sweet as I can muster. Most excerpts barely hold my attention.

    With this, there is no need to be short or faux-sweet. Goodness! I love April (is her last name pronounced "Showers?" Clever, especially with the alternate spelling)! Her personality is so...lovably deviant.

    Man (and woman)...I think I'll be checking out Silverville. You said you had other works in the series, correct? This excerpt was truly fantastic, and I'll be promoting your site as often as I can so others can discover you.

    I must thank Julie again for hosting you. She knows a real find when she encounters one.

    - Mike (you've moved up the ranks quickly to be able to use my real name and not my initials).

    P.S. Most people aren't aware that the comment verification is automatically on when you begin your blog with blogger, in case you didn't know. two must have some GOOD eyes! Lord, I thought I was going to have to dig in my old chemistry kit and retrieve my microscope! eyes are fading fast!

    1. Mike, your flattering is going to turn our heads -- feel free to dish it out any time! And thanks for following us back. We look forward to reading your own musings on your own site.

      Yep, intentional alternative spelling for "Showers" -- we're shameless word punners.

      Forgive the small print: we're newbies at this Blog New World, and we'll try to figure out how to enlarge our print.

      -- Kym n Mark

  3. Although I'm in no way a blogger expert, perhaps I can help you with some of your design hurdles. My blog is a total customization of the simple template - colors, font, width, background...all that has been added to the basic template they offer.

    Okay...Go to your "blogger" page (click the "B" in the upper left corner of your navbar.) This will take you to your homepage. Click on your blog's name, and you should be on the "Overview" page.

    On the left side is a list of options. Go down and click "Template." The template page will come up, with a "Live on Blog" and "Mobile" design options. Under "Live on Blog" is an orange "Customize" button. Click it.

    This will bring up a split screen - design options in the gray area up top, and your blog at the bottom. We'll be dealing with the gray area.

    On the left is another list of options. Go to the "Advanced" option (it should be the last one on the list) and click it.

    The "Page Text" should be highlighted. At least it is on mine, and since you are also using the "simple" template, it should be on yours, as well.

    In this option, you have the ability to change the font, the size, and the color of your page text. This is the area to make the changes.

    For instance, on my blog, I chose "Droid Serif" as the font style, increased the size to 14px, and also changed the color of my font to match my blog better. Be sure to "Apply to Blog" after finishing. It's the button in the upper right corner. Otherwise it won't save it for you.

    I've explored the entire design area, so if you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask.

    Hope that helps!

    - M