Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Book With Trish - Pt 1.

Alright, so here we are. You'll notice I have my wordcounter already set up, complete with a working title: Fascination, and I have my word doc template all set - header and footer and title in place and now like some of you guys I am faced with that blinking cursor just beneath the words CHAPTER ONE.

This is where the actual task of writing the book can suddenly become quite daunting. And I have to say, even putting the word counter up with absolutely nothing on it was a weird experience for me. (I normally have a couple of thousand words going before I reveal it to the world...) So how am I going to approach this brand new book??

I'm gonna close the word doc and I'm gonna go back a step is what I'm gonna do.

Now, if you followed any of the things I talked about in The Blank Page series of Blogs, then you'll know I like to start with my characters. So if I repeat anything from the Characters part of the Blank Page here, then I make no apologies. Cos this is genuinely how I work. And as both the lines I work for - heck any line of anything anywhere is the same - are concerned with the characters and their development as the story progresses - that's where I'm going to start. You gotta know them, really know them, before you even start. And that way, when you tell their story, they will hopefully come across as all the more believeable...

So - To get those creative juices going, I like to start with the hero myself. And this is how this idea for a story has grown with me so far...

I knew when I sent away The Love Letters, that I had to start thinking about a new story - and a new story for a different line. (Love Letters was for Romance, this new one is a Modern Extra) Now, I'm not one of those people that can work on more than one book at a time, though I do know of many many author friends who do, and who find it very productive, especially when they're stuck at some point in one and can switch to the other until their muse kicks back into gear. But it's not for me. I need to detach myself from one story before I move onto another. So, with The Love Letters all done and dusted, it was time to look for a new story and new characters.

Sometimes, in order to help with the transition I will simply not do anything at all. I'll go see friends, I'll go play with my horse, I'll watch DVD's, read a book, play on the internet, help set up a whole new Blogazine with some friends... ;) I'll free my mind completely and wind down.
And if I'm lucky, a new story idea will just come along...

With Modx I know my key themes already with two under my belt. I know I want a City type setting, I want characters anywhere from kinda 26 - 32 odds. I know I want them both to have careers, a few close friends to use as secondary characters. I want the hero to be that new breed of alpha male that Ally Blake talked about in her Modx notes... And I know all these things cos I've studied the line I'm aiming at. I've done my research. I know my 'boundaries' if you like. So I have all that in the back of my head as I start to think characters.

The seeds of an idea started a few days ago. Very loose. Just along the lines of commitment phobic guy and girl next door kinda thing. Then I started to think about it a little more. What would make this guy a commitment phobic? How do I make him free and easy without turning him into some male slut my reader will dislike from page one? What's his back-story - what are the things that make him the way he is... what's his motivation as I start? And what then might make him change his mind? These are the basic building blocks of his part of the story. The beginnings of an idea of the kind of emotional journey he will make... which is what the lines I write for are most concerned about right now...

It's gotta be real. Believeable. So whether you turn to real life and look at your friends and your own experiences, or you simply use your imagination to think of things that may have happened to our characters before the story even starts, the journey that your characters take has got to be grounded in something that the reader can associate with. So, for my commitment phobic hero I have to think about what might have made him the person he is as an adult. Did he see responsibility as something that had caused other people close to him difficulties? Did he just simply think that he had too much responsibility placed on his own shoulders early on so has decided to have fun and play the field with the idea that the right person will just come along when he feels it's time for him to settle down? Well, we all know it doesn't happen like that, right??? So what would happen if the right person came along when he wasn't ready to settle? Would he let her go in the belief that he'd either find her again or he'd find someone else that was right for him later on? Would he bite the bullet and always feel he had missed out on something by settling earlier than he had planned? And right there I have the beginnings of my hero's emotional conflict.

Casting him was easy for me this time. He landed in my lap, as so many do, because I wasn't thinking about it while working on something else. Hugh Jackman day on Monday did it for me. Cos during the Blog Tour that originated from my Male on Monday post at The Pink Heart Society, I was given a wide range of pictures to look at. And somewhere along the way he started shouting hero at me. Why? Well, it wasn't just a particular look, it was the range of looks. For this story I have a hero and heroine who have known each other as friends since childhood. And with a little searching I found pics that took my hero from young to when my story begins. Along the way I also found pics like the pool table one, and the one on the sofa from my earlier blog on here - and within those pics I found scenes coming to life in my head that I could use in the book... Gotta love it when that happens. And it has much less to do with Hugh's personality in real life, and more to do with the fact that those pics became someone else in my imagination. Which is exactly what we want when we go casting a hero...

So today, we are going to cast our hero. We are going to search for pics that create an image of him in our mind, pics of him with different expressions that may hep us to describe how he looks in a particular mood, pics that suggest a scene we may use along the way. And whether you can cut these out and create a collage as the wonderful Barbara Hannay recently talked about for Nicola Marsh through her blog here, or you simply copy and paste them onto a blank page on your computer as you form a character sheet, we are working towards one very large part of our story...
Then we're going to name him. A name can make such a difference. A Malcolm is a very different creature from a Mal. A Jeremy is a very different creature from a Drake. For me, writing Irish stories set in Ireland, I like to use Irish names. So I have an Irish names website I browse through. Go look on Google - search baby names - find a site you like and bookmark it - and then name your hero... For me, with this one it's a little easier, cos I'm going to attempt to get a linked story past my Editor... so my guy is already named. He is Connor Flanaghan, younger brother of Rory from Breathless... What's your hero called? Come tell us if you like...

Next up we're going to do a detailed character sheet of our guy. Give it his name as a heading - paste in your pics if you like - and then start to give us the basics. Height, hair colour, eye colour, age, build, what he works as, where he lives, what he drives... Then we want to add more personal details - was he married before, has he been in a long term relationship, how many brothers and sisters does he have and what are their names/ages/marital status/kids names -are his parents alive or dead/ divorced or married for decades??? What about the simpler things - how does he take his coffee, is he a microwave or a cook everything fresh guy? What kind of clothes does he wear - is he Abercrombie & Fitch, Mister three piece suit, or the jeans and first shirt that came to hand that was clean kinda bloke??

All of these things start to shape a personality for us, they help to make him real. So spend some time walking around with this man in your mind. While you're walking the dog or doing the dishes or driving to work... make him real, like a friend you've known for a long time. Let his personality really come to life and become three dimensional. Maybe, if you're like me, you even have conversations with him (though best to do this alone in case folks think you're losing it more than they possibly already do...) Do whatever works for you to make this guy as real as possible. And anything that you maybe hadn't thought of before that comes into your mind while you think about him - note them down on his character sheet... You might not use all of this information in the end result. But the very fact that you know them and can refer back to them mean that his character is more real on the page and you are less likely to make continuity mistakes as you go along...

Don't even think too much about why he does the things he does at this point. Just make him as real and as rounded a guy as possible. What you'll find is, that as you build this three dimensional personality, certain things about him will tell you more about why he does the things he does. in our story.. Like if his parents had a nasty divorce, will he be keen to make the same mistakes they did? If he is a relaxed jeans and first clean shirt guy will he then clash with someone highly fashion and image conscious who may try to change him? If he has a child he's raising alone will he be more cautious about bringing a new person into their life? If he has been betrayed by someone in his past will he be keen to trust again? Conflicts may well appear naturally from the personality you have created... And you can then use them to great effect in your story...

So for today. We're doing our hero's character sheet. We're creating a man who is as real to us in our imagination as the people we have known for years in real life...

Day One: Hero Character Sheet.

1/ Cast a hero with pics that suggest moods/scenes and personality
2/ Name your hero
3/ Build up a detailed profile of his life prior to the beginning of the book

And tomorrow we'll do the same thing with our heroine and we'll start and look at the conflicts we can use in our story...

So for the story I'm pitching I have Connor Flanaghan, 29 year old younger brother of Rory from my last Modern Extra. He runs the Gym businesses with Rory and another brother and he lives a very free and single life... He is six feet tall, dark brown eyes and dark chocolate hair. Sexy as all hell (it is a Modx after all....) And as a part owner of a Gym business could he really be anything else???

If you want to you can pop by and tell us briefly about your hero and who you *cast* in the part... And don't be afraid to ask questions either! You might just give me an idea or two along the way...

26 comments:

allyblake said...

Ooooh, you truicksy woman. now I knew you were using Hugh as your man, but those last two pictures are mine. All mine!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ally

(Who has Danny Finch, 33, 6'2" sports agent. And funnily enough he looks every much like Connor!!!)

Kate Walker said...

Oh very clevere Trish!

Another Hugh-day blog with the tenuous excuse that your hero looks like Mr Jackman - so now I suppose you're going to claim that they use yellow towels in this gym of his - and I'm betting that Connor might just have to appear in a towel an nothing else, hmm?

See you soon


Kate - who, sadly, doesn't have Hugh as inspiration for her latest because Andreus is Greek and, lovely as Hugh is, he don't look Greek

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

I really expected this to be the 'easy' part for me, but I have a problem - my hero keeps changing! He started out as Goran Visjnic, then George Clooney tried to take over, and now he's become Clive Owen... does this ever happen to you, or is it where I haven't done enough planning?

Trish said...

Ally... are we even for Nathan now... huh huh huh??? ;)

Kate - LOL at the towel in the gym... especially for you and Hugh in a towel I will make the towels in the gym yellow... Ahhh... but you gotta love it when inspiration strikes while we're all playing a little and having fun....

Trish said...

Sue - fab question!!! And I had exactly this problem with Breathless, Connor's big bro Rory's story... In the end I even had to do a poll here on the Blog! And thanks to my lovely visitors I ended up with Colin Farrell - I went and looked for pics to inspire - and once I started writing with him as my hero inspiration, the words flew!

I think if they are changing in your mind then you still haven't quite nailed down who *he* is. And the character in your imagination is telling you so! Listen to that voice, listen to what he's telling you and go back a step until you know him better...

Some people can take two or three heros, and take the 'bits' of them they like to roll together to form their hero in their mind. And I don't think in the long run that anyone who starts off with a particular hero casting will tell you that by the end of the book their character hasn't taken on wings of his own and become his own man. He may just have a passing *physical* resemblance to the original pics (vbg)
But I'd say if you're changing from hero to hero with quite different looks in each case then he really isn't clear in your head yet. And trust me, that'll lead to problems as you get further into your book.... :(

So back a step you go my friend... Rethink now.... save time and heartache in the greater scheme of it all...

Nicola Marsh said...

I've only just started new book so I'm joining in too.

I have Sam (Sheikh Samman al Wali), 6'3", ruler of his own country, and is the spitting image of Rodrigo Santaro!

liz fenwick said...

Hi Trish,

Thanks to your Hugh Jackman Day on Pink Hearts coinciding with the start of my new effort I'd like to join the group. My hero, Mark, looks like Hugh and is linked with my last book (he's the one the h drops despite his looks and charm). Although my work isn't a catagory (don't have the discipline - too many characters and too long a story)it is a romance or several actually :)

Liz

Trish W said...

Anyone who hasn't seen the pic of Nic's Sam for this book should really pop by her blog for a look see... well worth the trip I tell ya!!!

Liz welcome!!!!! It doesn't matter if you don't write category. If any of the workshop exercises or the links or chats along the way help with what you're doing then I'll be happy... ;)

I should note if I didn't already gang - This is just the way that works for me.... and if it helps anyone out of a rut or to open a new word file and have a go then thats fab!!! This is by no means a template for success... my methods won't necessarily work for everyone. That's the thing with being a writer. Every single one of us is as individual as a snowflake. But if we can chat through some things, try a few exercises, watch as others work along side us... then that's a good thing, right???

I think so :)

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Woohoo, I've done it! I've finally nailed my hero, and it's all thanks to being motivated to sit down and think about it - with no excuses (thanks Trish).
Matt's worksheet is now an impressive 5 pages long (okay, so there's also pics in there - dog, car, house) and I've learned that I probably did need to begin writing the book before knowing some of the things I now know.
Nicola, your Sam is utterly gorgeous!! *sigh* so many heroes waiting for their own book, how will I ever keep up :-/
Sue :-) now sneaking off to watch an episode of Clive Owen in Chancer...

Carol Hutchens said...

I just finished a story with Hugh as the hero...this time I'm using a personality type that's been knocking on my brain for his own story...blonde, green eyes, 6'3'...swoon...I love him already.
John Synieder, aka, Bo Duke.

Carol

Donna Alward said...

"And I don't think in the long run that anyone who starts off with a particular hero casting will tell you that by the end of the book their character hasn't taken on wings of his own and become his own man."

Exactly! I start out with casting but then he just comes into his own. I'm joining in too, albeit a bit modified, as I'm 1/4 way into one book and tinkering with another.

FWIW, in book one my hero, Mike Gardner, is tall, stubborn, and looks an awful lot like Max Martini.

In book 2 I also have someone tall...Jonas, 6'1", based on Scott Foley.

Donna, wiggling with excitement and motivation

Trish said...

Yaayy Sue!!!! Hopefully now he'll stop kicking and screaming that something just wasn't right about the first pics you had of him.... ;) He must have felt like he had a teeny bit of a split personality... or too many plastic surgery visits...lol...And you've now learned that, for you, having a few chapters under your belt gave you more insight into him, yes? There is now right and wrong method. There is only trying things and finding what works for you, you know? Did the character sheet tell you anything you didn't already know? Or did you find he was so real to you already that everything about him was easy to list?

I find with spending time with my characters beforehand that I can better predict what way they'll react in a certain situation - sometimes they are so strong that they'll go it alone in the first three or four chapters but after that I really need to be inside their heads to understand why they're holding back, or fighting hard or touchy no matter what the other person says... if that makes sense... Happened to me loads in The Love Letters - they just held back and held back until I wanted to slap them both silly... But after a little think I could understand why they both did it. Because I knew their histories....

Carol! John Schneider !!! YUM!!! He'll make a fabulous hero! That twinkle in the eyes... that voice... yup... I can see it...

allyblake said...

Sue, I had exactly this problem a couple of weeks back. I had three different guys swimming arounin my head. and it didn't come from not knowing my hero, I knew him, I just though him a pushover!!! So I felt I needed a different guy for my heroine whch was really a tough ask, to break the shackles of a solid idea.

I, like Trish, had that poll on my blog, and in the end found the picture of Hugh that Trish has STOLEN, and found my guy!!!

So glad you've found yours too ;).

Carol Huthcnes said...

Trish,
Did I say...I can't spell, LOL?
This is John, after The Dukes, and before Smallville...yummy.

Carol

Margaret McDonagh said...

I'm just the same, Trish. I have to live with my characters in my head for ages, getting to know them until they become so real, like friends, that I do talk to them and they talk to me! (The straight jacket can't be far away!!!!)

I find the right picture or pictures on which to help me visualise my characters. But I don't use the personality of the actor or sports person, it's about a look. My character develops his own personality.

My current wip has a hero called Cameron Kincaid and he is absolutely delicious! He's 6'1", dark hair, grey eyes, 36 and a doctor. I've had the picture on file for years and this was just the look I wanted for Cameron. Intense, compelling and totally sexy.

Trouble is I have no idea who the model guy actually is! He's from a Seiko watch advert from years ago and I would LOVE to know who he really is!!!!

Good luck with the new wip - and to all those doing the workshop with you.

Love,
Mags

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Ally, I'm so relieved to know I'm not the only one to have had this problem. I feel almost 'normal' now. *vbg*

Trish asked "Did the character sheet tell you anything you didn't already know? Or did you find he was so real to you already that everything about him was easy to list?"
My answer is yes to both!! And it's put me in another tinsy dilemma - Matt's brother, Jake, has now became a 'real-life' character to the degree where I feel I need to tell his story too...
I already know that Jake is a definite George Clooney lookalike - you know that cheeky, butter wouldn't melt type? I'm going to try to keep him brewing while I carry on with my current wip but I'll keep adding to the character worksheet I've now started for him.

Donna, my heroine Kate shares the same surname as the hero from your first book (except she spells it differently - your spelling is my mother's maiden name)!

Mags, I'm so intrigued about who Cameron looks like - is this the pic you might one day share with us?

Apologies for the long post (again), but I could talk on blogger all day!!
Sue :-)

Donna Alward said...

Oh my, Trish, I think you've started something. :-)

Trish said...

Ooooh Sue now I want to know who Mags' hero is too!!! Seiko advert... mmmm....

And Donna... Ally may have been peeved at me earlier for *stealing* her hero... but she'll not be alone when we post the heroine later ;) Lubs ya hun!!!

Lis said...

Well my hero's having an identity crisis *g* First he was a hint of David Boreanaz, now he's morphed into Nick Lachey and keeps changing his name. I'm guessing I'll be spending a few hours around the baby name sites test driving a few :)

jude said...

Hi gang. Well my hero is one I've been keeping on the back burner because he was the brother of the heroine in the Mod X hopeful I've just finished.

Joe MacKenny, age 31, profession Malt Whisky Masterclass pro. And all rolled up into the droolsome package of Dougray Scott (Bond movie bad guy and local Scottish boy done good. He's dark and rather nice - he even wears kilts from time to time.)

I'm haven't a clue where the story's going, but heck it's fun.
jx

Natasha said...

She going to steal one of my heroines, I can *feel* it!

Trish said...

Lis - Both quite similar guys in the tall dark and handsome league... So there's definately a hero in there waiting to get out!!! Maybe once you find a name one or the other of them will just *fit* better or maybe you'll end up being one of those people that takes a little of each one and adds it to the overall picture that is your very own hero... I for one can't wait to find out what happens!!! I get nearly as excited when someone else finds the right hero as I do when I find one myself... And that's the joy of doing this with like minded people - no one who isn't a writer will get how much fun there can be in the process... I have friends who just do that nodding and smiling thing when I talk about it...

Jude - Now I really need to know what a Malt Whiskey Pro is????? What does he do? Dougrey Scott is a very sexy guy. Dark. Deep. Yum. There's definately a hero in there! And with any luck the story will come to you as we all get together.... ;)

And Natasha... yup... could be...

jude said...

Trish - glad you like Doug (he's a personal fave). The malt whisky job isn't made up honest. I used to work for a small business society and one of our top guys did it - teaching the finer arts of malt whisky appreciation right around the world - and I thought hmmm sexy job. Well better than the ordinary (as long as he stays off the bottle).
jx

Sharon J said...

What a terrific idea, Trish! If I'd been planning to write a HMB right now, I'd definitely join in. Alas, I'm writing something completely different that, although relationship based, isn't a romance as such. I already have my characters because they've all been based on characters from my family tree (and friends of the family whose stories have been passed down through the generations). Since starting, they've developed into characters in their own right rather than being "my great-grandmother" etc., but then my characters always develop as I write. I just can't get comfortable with developing them beforehand. I've tried but found they didn't fit the story.

Anyway, moving onto something entirely different. I was walking telly last night and suddenly realised who you remind me of. That woman who's in 'Extras'. What's her name? ...[goes off to look it up on t'internet]...Ashely Jensen (she plays Maggie).

Margaret McDonagh said...

No, Sue, Seiko watch man is not my Mr Perfect whom I guard so jealously!!!!! I know who he is!

Trish, I would also love to know who Seiko watch man is! I have no idea. Just this one magazine picture from years ago, but it is just the right look for Cameron and makes me all goose-pimply having him sat on my desk all day looking at me!!! It's such a hard life being a writer, the things we have to put up with!!!

Love,
Mags

Sierra Donovan said...

Trish, I'm late to the party, but Donna's blog alerted me to your workshop and here I am!

It's a good time for me, 'cause I'm on chapter 1 of a wip that's taken me forever to get off the ground. One of the delays? I don't know my hero very well yet, except that he's a dead ringer for Antonio Banderas.

So, off to search out some pix that hint at various aspects of my guy's personality. Looking at shot after shot of Antonio sounds pretty greuling ;) ... but hey, somebody's gotta do it!