Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Book With Trish Pt 7 - Prior Relationships Effect On Interaction

Here we go then – back to the Workshops with a look at how relationships prior to the beginning of a story can effect the way the characters interact…

Remember that no matter what line you’re writing for, or what outside plot you have going, it’s the characters that drive the story. We need them to be as real as possible, with the same hopes, desires, ways of behaving, doubts, fears and baggage as the rest of us. It’s only by having believable characters that the reader will care what happens to them. So no matter what else you want from your book – make very sure that the characters are the focus of it all! Every scene, everything that happens, every action, should have an effect or a meaning or prove a catalyst in some way to your characters. That’s what makes any story work I believe.

And it’s why I’m so gung ho on making sure that you know them before you even begin – because that way you have as better idea of how they’ll react…

So this time we’re looking at how their relationship prior to the beginning of the book can effect the way they react to each other when they first meet on the page. A couple who have been friends for life are more likely to be at ease in each others company than a couple who have never met before. A couple who have been enemies for some reason or another will more than likely be antagonistic to each other whereas a couple who were maybe married and then split up may be guarded because of the hurt involved in that break up. All very natural, real life reactions. And so long as we keep that ‘realism’ in place as the bar to which everything must measure up then we stand a much better chance of making our characters believable, right?

This is especially important later on, when the characters have to soften or maybe even change their mind about something that has held them back the whole way through the book! We have to understand why that change happened, it can’t just come out of nowhere because when writing it we thought it was time it happened… The characters have to lead us to it…

So, let’s look at dialogue between characters in the opening chapters, with their relationships a little different each time and therefore reflected in the way they interact…

In Breathless! We have two people who have never met – one who tends to hide insecurities about herself behind sarcastic wit and one who is very alpha – used to being in control, not easily put off, a man used to being in charge of any given situation. They meet on the first page and Cara the heroine’s personality immediately covers up embarrassment with sarcasm – which he’s not going to have any of, is he? So they clash…

“Are you always this friendly when someone tries to be nice to you?”
“Is that what you’re doing?”
The material of his T-Shirt strained as he moved his arms behind his back and shrugged again, drawing Cara’s eyes to the large number sixty-nine printed there.
She swallowed hard. Behave Cara. She forced herself to look up into his dark eyes as he spoke,
“That was the general idea, yeah. I will admit I may be a tad rusty though. I’ve been out of the country for a while and I’m not used to making small talk. So you’ll have to excuse me for that.”
“Avoiding someone’s husband I suppose.”
Oh Cara, just shut up! Why was it she never knew when to stay quiet? It was a knee-jerk reaction of old, and she knew it. But really, at twenty-seven she should have some sense of control by now. Lord knew it wasn’t as if it hadn’t caused her plenty of heartache before.

So already we have a sense of these two people. In the first chapter we are laying down the foundations of their personality – and we must then reveal a little more and a little more as the story progresses… Have a look at that short passage and tear it down and see what you have learnt from it – can you see Cara’s sarcasm isn’t something she always has control over? Can you sense she’s unsettled by this man? And can you see it doesn’t phase on him? We’ve also learned that he’s been overseas. Laying the foundations for the next few chapters when we find out why and how it then relates to his conflicts…

Then let’s change the perspective slightly and look at two people with a very different situation – in Marriage Lost And Found we had a couple who had been married – one who remembers that and one who doesn’t…

“You’ve changed.”
“Yes,” He nodded, “I guess to what you remember I have. Older would be the first thing.”
“Me too.”
His eyes sparkled with a small smile that twitched his lips, “I seem to recall a birthday party.”
Finally finding her spine, she managed to look away from him, “Why are you still here? Wasn’t making this much of a mess for me enough for you?”
“I didn’t come to make a mess. I came to see you.”
Her laugh was sarcastic, “Bit late aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry about that.”
“The time limit on sorry ran out about seven years ago.”
If he was as awful a guy as she thought he was he’d have deserved the tone to her voice, but -, “A.J., there’s something you need to know.“
“Something that will actually make a difference?” Again she laughed, “Oh, this should be good.”
He frowned and took a deep breath, “I don’t remember you.”

So their interaction is strained – there’s hurt showing plainly on her side – a kind of quiet control on his cos he knows something she doesn’t. So their prior relationship and their personalities before the story began are both apparent. If he had just upped and left her for no reason then he may have been different with her. If they had argued before they parted then they may both have been antagonistic and sarcastic. Knowing them before starting to tell their story will automatically dictate how they behave…

So Part 7 of the Workshop would be to look at the way your characters interact with each other during the early stages of the book.

1/ Think about how their prior relationship or lack of one will effect their behaviour towards one another.

2/ Relate it to how they speak, to whether or not they touch, to what way they may think when you’re using their POV as a narrative…

3/ And don’t give away too much too soon! As your characters are just getting to know each other again, or see each other differently, or meet for the first time, the reader should be exactly where they are too. So, just like your characters, they will learn a little at a time – will have to interpret actions and reactions, reading between the lines – just as your characters would in real life – but with the added advantage of learning a little from inside the characters thoughts along the way so that misunderstandings or the reasons behind holding back a secret are clearer…

Every book in every genre has to have a page turning quality. By filtering a little of the characters thought processes and conflicts and motivations through the first third of the book you can then *turn them round* in the second third of the book leading to the *black moment* and *resolution* in the final third... Which is something we'll discuss in a later workshop...

In the meantime make sure, when you read through what you've done, that you have it clear what the relationship between these two people is - so that you can build on that as you continue...

I’ll go over any questions you might have on this topic and then we’ll move on to Pt 8 and Building Sexual Tension in the early stages…

1 comment:

Rachael said...

Thanks for giving me more to think about. Am absolutely knackered today but will check my mss out to do with relationship, tomorrow!
RACH!