29 November 2010

Time to Create Something!

Hey, Friends! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving (to my American readers... to my international readers... I hope you had a great weekend)!

I'm back in my apartment, trying to unpack and get all the last minute stuff done to re-enter life. Sometime during the break I became obsessed with re-organizing my apartment (which I've somewhat started) and I'm itching to do some before I go to sleep at night. Guess my body thinks it's spring, but I'll take it!

Lately I've been feeling the yearning to re-enter my novels. Editing, even. Possibly preparing a query. Making decisions. Is it time? I don't know. Shh, let's not spook the flame of ... whatever this is.

I think I'm just feeling creative right now. I want to find a creative way to use the space in my apartment. I'll spend most of this week helping decorate for my organization's Christmas party. And tomorrow I'm going to decorate my first tree (of my very own) on my desk at work. Maybe that's it. Whatever this is, I like it. Please, spark of inspiration, stay. I like life with you.

And with that, I must go organize something. :0)

See y'all next week!

22 November 2010

What's Your Motivation?

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Today's post concludes the series on the "Get Motivated" conference I attended in Atlanta on Nov. 1. There were all these famous speakers there, from Lou Holtz to Bill Cosby. So far, we've talked about not letting our characters contradict each other and creating memorable secondary characters (but not letting them steal the spotlight!).

Today we're going to talk about Motivation. Ha! How appropriate!

So, right before lunch there was this massive infomercial. It was longer than the other sessions. This guy came out and talked to us about stocks and investing. Something I know NOTHING about. At the end, we discovered we couldn't do all the "tricks" he taught us without taking a specific course and registering/paying for access to a specific website.

The guy started off his talk holding up a $5 bill. He asked if anyone would give him $1 for the 5. Someone ran up and traded with him. Then he held up a $20 and asked if anyone would give him a $10. More people ran up. Then he said, "I have a $100 bill here..." As soon as he said that, a man on the 5th row leapt out of his seat, tripped, and fell flat on his face in front of a stadium full of people. It was hysterical! And the speaker ended up giving the $100 away in a different way. It was a gimmick.

Then, at the end, he started advertising the special course/registration. The more special offers he announced, the more people streamed from their seats. It was like watching a giant alter call- for money. People were rushing forward, pushing past each other, trying to get the special deals. It was fascinating.

And it got me thinking about motivation for our characters. That man who fell on his face was motivated, so much so that he was willing to look like an idiot just for a little cash. The people who ran from their seats for this course which would teach them how to make money, they were also very motivated. They knew what they wanted and were willing to do whatever they needed to get it. Their pull was wealth.

What's your character's? My current one is looking for personal worth. Quite simply, she performs and pushes herself to the limit simply because she feels she isn't good enough.

One of the biggest things we can discover about a character is motivation. Once we know that, things begin to make sense.

Have a great Thanksgiving, Friends!

15 November 2010

Stealing the Show

Hey, Friends!

Two weeks ago I went to a motivational conference in Atlanta. What I saw in the people around me and the speakers themselves really taught me about writing/creating stories. Last week we talked about using our characters in a way that contributes to the story as a whole, as opposed to contradicting each other.

This week we're going to talk about unforgettable characters.

There really isn't a rule to how to do this because character connection is so subjective to a reader. But I do think there should be no wasted space, no lazy dialogue, no pointless commentary. Every line, every word, must be intentional. This is something I'm really working on, because there are places in my book where dialogue is weak.

There was a GREAT example of this at the conference.

In the middle of the day, there were two separate sessions that were basically infomercials. When they announced the speakers, we turned and looked at each other, asking "Who?" They weren't the people on the billboard. When the second one was announced, I leaned over and asked a friend, "I wonder how the 'no-names' feel whenever they are announced and the audience barely claps?"

Before she could laugh, the speaker bounded out and said, "Don't worry looking for me in the book, Ladies and Gentlemen. I'm not important enough to be in it". (Or something like that). For the next 45 minutes, he made us laugh like crazy. He'd say something totally ludicrous and say, "Just wait. It gets worse." And then said something even funnier.

His subject matter dealt with making money through real estate (we suspect the two infomercials funded the entire conference), something I know nothing about. But I listened for the entire time. He was literally the highlight of my day, my favorite part about the entire conference. Why?

He spoke from the heart.

He made me laugh.

He spoke the truth. In fact, he spoke life. Though in a secular setting, he quoted the Bible. He even pronounced a blessing over the audience- even though most of them never noticed it.

This minor character none of us had ever heard of completely stole the show. By the end of his talk, I was ready to buy his book just because I wanted to hear his voice again.

He was unforgettable.

I walked away thinking about the minor characters in my stories and how important they are for adding... well, character. That extra touch, the accent, that takes the story beyond mundane.

While they might not have the spotlight like our primary characters, they can make the difference between losing an audience and taking them captive. However, as Jody and Jennifer pointed out in the comments below, it's important that our minor characters do not completely steal the show from the primary ones. If they do, there's a problem. I left the conference that day talking about one guy-James Smith. And his presentation had very little to do with the point of the conference. It was a supporting role.

For minor characters, it's important to remember what Brad Pitt's character said to Matt Damon's in Ocean's Eleven: "Be memorable, but not too memorable." In other words: don't completely steal the show. Just enhance it by doing your part well.

See y'all next week!

08 November 2010

When Characters Contradict Each Other...

So last week I was one of thousands at the "Get Motivated" conference in Atlanta. It was pretty cool. The speaker I was the most excited about hearing was Bill Cosby (and unfortunately, we had to leave before he spoke). But there were a lot of other speakers...Goldie Hawn, Lou Holtz, General Colin Powell, Rudy Guliani, plus a few who weren't advertised.

I saw a lot of characters and a lot of "what if" threads there. It was definitely a lesson in character study. Enough for several posts. So this will be a series that will end the week of Thanksgiving.

Anywho... first lesson: make sure your characters don't contradict each other.

So, each speaker had a specific topic to discuss with us: goals, leadership, perseverance, etc. It was advertised on the ticket. What we were not given was a program, so we had no idea who was going to speak when. It was a method to keep us guessing and in our seats, instead of leaving early for lunch and for home in order to beat the crowds. In our case, it didn't work.

The whole day seemed to go smoothly (though we had no idea how if the sessions were on time), until the final two sessions we heard.

I'm not an idiot. I know all of the speakers did not arrive at the Georgia Dome at the break of dawn and listen to all of the talks. They probably strolled in not too long before their scheduled speeches, sat in the green room on their phones/computers/hanging out with people, and then strode out to the stage to a rock star welcome when beckoned. But this made me wonder how much background each of them were given on the speeches in general:

One of the speakers, James Smith, encouraged us to turn off our televisions, our cell phones, our computers, and connect to life. He reminded us of what really matters (more on him on next week).

Then Rudy Guliani got up and did 2 things wrong: 1) He repeated a joke one of the morning speakers gave almost verbatim. But instead of enhancing the point of the joke, it just looked like poor preparation. Like he didn't know what his colleague was going to speak on.

2) After repeating that joke (asking how many people had a computer and knew how to use it) he encouraged each person to get an iphone, a kindle, a computer, etc. and stay connected to what is going on in the world, our businesses, and our governments.

What a contradiction!

Guliani's problem was his presentation. Honestly, he was so boring. He followed a fascinating speaker (with a topic I couldn't even understand- again, to be discussed next week) and had a topic I understood: leadership. But, oh my word. I couldn't wait for him to finish.

In his first moments on stage, he told an "original" joke that wasn't original and contradicted the speaker directly before him. It was like he prepared his speech, but not in the context of the entire conference. He didn't compare notes. And since he was the repeat, it made him look very ... silly.

Something I've learned the hard way is going through and checking the dialogue in my stories to make sure they are free of contradictions, not only in themselves, but in the context of the novel. It can be so easy to do... I mean, it's not like we write the entire book in one setting. It's such a simple slip, to make a decision later on in the process that contradicts an earlier one. But they are so important to catch.

If we don't, we can lose our audience.

See y'all next week!

05 November 2010

Help African Orphans

Hey, Friends!

There's a contest I just heard about and wanted to pass on to you. Please check it out!

It's really simple: someone entered the cause of Swaziland Orphans in a contest. Everyday, they go to a carepoint to get a meal a day. It's possibly the only meal they eat. If enough people vote, then the Carepoints will get $5000.

Just go to this link and click on "vote". You have to enter an email address... and then you can vote once a day until Nov. 15. Please go vote and pass this on. It's an easy way to feed starving children.

https://makeithappen.usbank.com/Story-Gallery/default.aspx?StoryId=14232

Thank you!

01 November 2010

Conferences!

Hey, Friends!

Happy November!

So, it's been a giant weekend of conferences. We had one at my missions organization this weekend and today (Monday), my department is going down to Atlanta to the "Get Motivated" Conference. We'll be there all day, meaning I won't be on my computer until late tonight. So I'm going to take this week off from posting and return next Monday. Have a great week!