Monday, May 14, 2007


Writing pal Erica posted about the TARA meeting on Saturday that Diana attended but which I, sigh, could not attend. I even had it all planned out with work that I'd fly down for it... but alas... I could not go. I'm sad to have missed all the fun!

But Erica kindly posted on her blog the ah-ha! moments she had during Diana's talks and her ah-ha moments became my ah-ha moments. Two things she wrote about really stuck with me. The first is that in a love triangle, both choices should be viable.* I'm always reminded of Sweet Home Alabama for this. In that movie, Reece Witherspoon has two men to choose between. And both of them are great. Neither one of them pull that dick move to make you hate them and make the choice an easy one. I always loved that - because it was a really hard choice. An honest choice. Because, really, if one of the potential love interests is a dick, is there really any choice at all? That makes it too easy and we all know that writing is about torturing your characters.

This came up in my WIP. See, I have my protag choosing between two men. And I wrote some pretty angsty falling in love stuff between her and one of the guys. My instinct was to then make the other guy no good. Or even just make him "eh." But that wouldn't cause tension. And so I made him a good person. Someone who clearly tries to do right by the protag. And that makes the protag have to choose. It makes her look within herself to really figure out who she is, and what she wants. It's harder to write that way, but I think the payoff is much greater.

Another thing Erica wrote about is "save the cat" meaning (and I quote from Erica here) "an act that an otherwise-unlikable character performs in order to engender reader empathy/support." Boy did I need to hear/read this right now! I'm entering the revisions of the dread middle and I was going back over what one of my crit partners wrote *cough*Diana*cough* and realized just how much she detested one of my characters. And I mean, really really really really didn't like the character at all. Similarly, The Boy** finished reading that same portion of the book and said "you know, no one is really likable there."

Bummer. But this whole "save the cat" idea is great. Because really, our villains are people too. They're the main characters of their own story. And this character that Diana hates so much has her own arc, is going through her own crisis and it's easy to show her slide down into that poisoness place. But it would be much easier to show her struggle. To show that she can be good. Because she used to be so good. So I need to find a cat to save :) And then I need to write her back into the last chunk of the book because I didn't really know what to do with her and so I just pushed her aside. Not really the best course of action.

So thanks Erica for posting your thoughts. It's hearing things like this that seem so straightforward, and yet are somehow so forgettable, that excite me. That get me pumped up to write and give me that clarity I need. That's why I read blogs and listen to industry tapes again and again. You never know when you're going to get that gentle reminder that nudges you back into place. That ah-ha moment that you may have had before, but that you needed again. And thanks Diana for giving that workshop even though I missed it. I promise to have your detested character save a cat. If I can find one...

Anyone else have ah-ha moments or advice or thoughts on craft they want to share? I firmly believe that you can never hear craft advice too many times!

* This is one of those pieces of advice that makes so much sense but then is SO easily forgotten like so many other good pieces of advice.

** Still looking for a good name. Not that I can't use his real name since that's pretty easy to track down. But I'm looking for something that will have instant recognition with readers... you know... so they'll know he's my sig other rather than a son or cat or iguana.


Erica Ridley said...

Yay, I'm so glad my ah-ha moments became your ah-ha moments! I *love* spreading ah-ha moments around!! =)

I'm practicing not being long-winded on your blog. For some reason, my comments are sometimes longer than the initial blog. When you posted that you were just going to write your response on your own blog, I was like, "Duh, I should do that." So maybe I'll mine my past comments and use some nice copy 'n' paste if I get hard up for blog posts some day. ;)

This not-long-winded thing is clearly challenging for me. =)

Unknown said...

Rotfl Erica.

I'm hear you Carrie with the whole what-to-call-the-hubs thing. I chickened out and called him hubs. None of his nicknames are (a) cute or (b) meaningful. what's a gal to do?

Good luck in your search for a name :)

Ooh, word verification is good today: nauseqgt. Almost a word!

Diana Peterfreund said...

The character that Diana hates so much...


Carrie Ryan said...

Yeah, merylf, I asked The Boy to come up with his own suggested and all of his were x-rated. Not gonna go with those.

And Diana, I was teasing... mostly :) But you did dislike the character with the passion of a thousand suns. I took it as a compliment that I could instill such emotion!! Do you think having her "save a cat" would be enough to redeem her a tad?

Patrick Alan said...

Save me the effort of looking up his name please?

What's even worse is when canadians use things like SO or SU or DP or DH in reference and never mention if they are using initials or some code that I don't understand...

I say go with DH and call him your designated hitter.

Again, I think it is silly. I just use names. I mean we all know Diana's Sailor Boy is named Archie and he has long black curly hair behind the blue dot.

lacey kaye said...

Erica is the best.

As for your two-hero syndrome, I LOVE that. LOVE LOVE LOVE. You're totally right. That's the best way.