Saturday, March 26, 2011

Exercise 2: Your own worst enemy

Your Own Worst Enemy:

My writing exercise for today has to do with internal conflict – specifically, what does your character do to him/herself that keeps the character from getting what he/she wants. What flaws does your character have that keeps him/her exciting to the reader.

For example, Harry Potter’s life would have been much less exciting (which would have been nice for him, even if the books would have been not nearly as fun) if he’d just gone and told Dumbledore what was going on in his life on page 10 of the story, instead of at the end of the story. But Harry is distrustful. He doesn’t always turn to adults or his friends when he has problems. He broods, keeps his mouth shut, breaks rules, and then goes and gets into serious trouble.

In A. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Sherlock is supremely confident in his abilities. Normally this is fine (other than the fact he alienates everyone around him but Watson), but occasionally he trips himself up with it. In A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes is outsmarted by Irene Adler because he underestimates her intelligence. He tricks her, but she tricks him right back and gets away with the photograph he’d been attempting to reclaim from her.

A few more examples of character flaws that drive the plots of many stories:

•Too much curiosity (the babysitter who opens the basement door after hearing a strange sound and AGGHHHGGGGHHHH!!!)

•Inability to commit to what the character wants (characters who can’t quite follow their dreams, or who fall in love but can’t proclaim themselves and drive the object of their love away, like in when Harry freaks out in the movieWhen Harry Met Sally).

•Inability to commit to a course of action (Hamlet is the classic example here)

•Huge blind spots (such as not realizing the one they love is no good for them, or seeing an enemy as a dear, dear friend, or thinking “nah, there’s probably nothing in the basement…)

•Carelessness with own life/friends/happiness (Character who takes unnecessary risks, who take the people who they care about for granted, who can’t keep their mouth shut when it would be better to).

•Thoughtlessness about consequences (characters who think that sleeping with the bridesmaid on the night before their own wedding is an awesome idea). Characters who are late for important appointments (i.e. he’s on the top of the Empire State Building waiting for her, she thought she’d stop off for coffee and then ran into a friend and was two hours late). Characters who let people down.

•Characters who lose faith (The team is assembled. The heist is perfectly planned, then one guy starts to wonder if this is what he wants to do with his life.)

And of course there’s jealousy, low-self esteem, past trauma, anger issues, unrealistic expectations, general ignorance about a situation, desire to be something that one is not, and on and on and on and on and on.

FOR EXTRA CREDIT: Figure out how you (in your real life) are your own worst enemy, resolve your issues, and live happily ever after. Hooray!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to Build an Author Website

Hello Cruel World,

Okay -- it's been busy around here. I had to do author photos and then go through another set of revisions. There was a nasty batch of flu making the rounds too -- it got my husband first, then me, then the kid. I can't remember the last time I was that sick.

And somewhere in all of that, I decided to build a website. And if you ever need to build your own author website, here is a handy guide to how I did it.

1. I start by searching web for cool author template. Find one I love. Purchase and download it.

2. Discover that I am much too stupid to use purchased template. Much.Too.Stupid.

3. Find a free template on my mac on program called iWeb. It has a book on it. So um....guess I'll use that one.

4. Discover that I am not too stupid to use iWeb. But just barely.

5. Mess with website as a way of using the obsessive, panicky energy I have stored up while I wait to hear what my editor thinks of my revisions.

6. Obsessively purchase photos on to fancy up the website. Stop when I realize I'm on the verge of spending $17 for a picture of fig newtons.

7. Start to obsessive plan to buy fig newtons, drive to lake (one hour away) and take pictures of them for my website with the lake in the background and thus save myself $17.

8. Consider the cost of the fig newtons, gas, and time involved in this plan. Re-evaluate.

8. Realize I am too lazy for this plan and that $17 is a completely reasonable price for a picture of fig newtons.

9. Admit I have a problem. I don't need a fig newton picture. Feel proud of decision to have no fig newton pictures at all on my website.

10. Go out the next day, buy fig newtons, take picture of them in my backyard, put picture on website (where they are small and barely noticeable), then eat fig newtons.

11. Admit that I'm still obsessive and have a problem, but I also got to eat fig newtons, so all is good.

12. Upload the website. It doesn't upload correctly.

13. Cuss and scream, re-read uploading instructions, do everything exactly like I'm supposed to.

14. Website still fails to upload.

15. Repeat process over and over again at least 126 times and have no luck.

16. Mysteriously, on the 127 time, the website loads perfectly.

17. Spend the next hour being baffled and thinking about how to justify buying more fig newtons.

18. Publicize website. It's, if you're interested.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Author Website

Hello Cruel World:

Alrighty, I have an announcement to make. I know have an author website. It's at