Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Theory On Thursday with Fiona Lowe

I'm stoked to have my good friend, Fiona Lowe on board today. Trust me, this lady KNOWS her craft. After reading her post, Book Depository got YET ANOTHER purchase from me :)

WARNING: Do NOT read if you don't want to add to your craft book pile!

I love me a craft book! But I love some more J I have a few on the shelf and some have worked for me and some haven’t, but that said I’ve dipped into them all at various times.

The first one that really spoke to me was Christopher Vogler’s ‘The Writer’s Journey’ and I became the person you never wanted to go to the movies with because I would deconstruct the film. It helped my writing though.

The first craft book I fought with (and lost) was Dwight V Swain’s ‘Techniques of the Selling Writer.’ I took SO long to understand that book, but I finally got it and am a scene-sequel convert. I frequently flip through Donald Maass’ ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’ which is great when you’re in the pit of despair, but the book that is on my desk ALL of the time is ’45 Master CharactersMythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (Writer’s Digest Books). The wonderful Barbara Samuel recommended it in 2008 and I love this book.

The introduction by Ms Schmidt says it all, “ I wrote this book for every writer who has ever felt weighed down by the rules of fiction writing……(when) you’ve got so bogged down with structure and plotting, you lost the creative spark that made you face that blank page in the first place."

Ms Schmidt presents us with archetypes which help you create unique characters. Once you have them, then you can do whatever you like with them because the archetype provides you with the foundation or beliefs of that character. Anyone who’s heard me speak will know that I can go on (and on) about how conflict stems from the character’s beliefs about themselves. Archetypes help with this-a lot!

The exciting thing about ’45 Master Characters’ is that the author has written the Heroine’s journey which does differ from the hero’s journey…usually a lot less swashbuckling and a lot more emotional growth. She outlines nine plot stages so you can easily map out your story direction, or not with archetypes which help you create unique characters. Once you have them, then you can do whatever you like with them because the archetype provides you with the foundation or beliefs of that character. Archetypes help with this-a lot! in the first place.”

Do I hear you say that using Archetypes ties you down? To that I say, ‘No’. It gives you a framework and forces you to ask the tough questions-

What does your character care about?

What does your character fear?

What motivates your character?

How do others view your character?

Digging deep pulls together a complex and interesting characters. In Career Girl in the Country I wanted to write a female surgeon and Poppy was very comfortable in the male world. She was Athena her father’s daughter. She cared about aligning herself with powerful men. Surgery is still very male dominated profession in 2011 and to get ahead she needs to align herself with powerful men. She loves to win and will go to any lengths to make that happen. She wants to study and broaden her mind and she never does anything she can hire someone to do it for her, after all, she’s a busy woman with a punishing schedule.

What does Athena fear? Female friendship because it reminds her of her own femininity which she tries to suppress. Athena saw women as the weaker sex. Poppy, who was the daughter of a man who only ever wanted a son, fights her femininity for a different reason. Athena can handle losing a battle but is terrified of losing the war. Poppy’s fighting for head of surgery. Athena needs to remain in the city and going into the wilderness would separate her from her books of learning. Poppy is a city-girl through and through.

How do others see Athena/Poppy? She’s neat and professional. She’s considered to be unemotional, hard and at times calculating and she can’t relax with other people so she’s not very social.

Knowing all that information about Poppy it became obvious to me what had to happen to her so she could take her heroine’s journey and grow and change.

Matilda in Boomerang Bride is so not Athena. She’s Demeter, the Nurturer, but she’s lost too much of herself to others and needs to learn she’s important too. Of course she doesn’t know that at the start of the book, but I knew, and that meant I could plunge her into situations so she could slowly start to learn.

There are eight female and eight male archetypes in the book along with the male and female journeys. What I also find really helpful is the villainous side of every archetype what happens when our driving forces are tipped from good into evil or ‘character traits gone wild’? It’s a great way to beef out a character. It helps you create complex characters because although our protagonists are not villains, a perfect heroine is boring and not very relatable. We all have a dark side, we all crack at times and say or do things we regret…our heroes and heroines need to as well.

If you’re getting rejection letters about lack of conflict or two dimensional characters or if you’re published but feeling the lack of creative spark then this book will probably really help.

It surely helped me.

Fiona Lowe is an award-winning, multi-published author of romance fiction with Harlequin Mills & Boon and Carina Press. When she’s not writing stories, she’s a weekend wife, a mother of two boys, and she’s trying really hard to instill in them heroic characteristics like cooking and ironing. She’s an avid reader, a guardian of 80 rose bushes, attempts to stay fit and is often seen collapsed on the couch with a glass of wine. She hangs out at Face book, Twitter and loves to hear from readers and writers. This month she has two books out!

Boomerang Bride and Career Girl in the Country


Bec said...

Oh no, now I need to buy another book!
Thanks... i think...

Rachael Johns said...

LOL Bec!! That's what I thought when I read it. Fiona makes it sound BRILLIANT. It's ordered :)

Fiona Lowe said...

GUlp! Recommending craft books is always tricky. One writing friend RAVED about one book but even more organised me, it was too organised ;-) I didn't bond with it at all.
Happy Birthday, Bec!

Maisey said...

*sigh* I was so determined not to need the book...and now I do. Great post, Fiona! I think character is the most interesting part of a story. Without good have nothing!

Rachael Johns said...

LOL Maisey!! I know from you, that is saying something :)

Joanne Dannon said...

Hi Fiona - I bought this book after you recommended it in the HT mag :) It's really good and I found it to be really helpful with conflict between my H&H b:)

Cathryn Hein said...

*groan* Another one for my list.

Really interesting, Fiona. Loved your examples.

Fiona Lowe said...

Hope you find it useful, Maisey and I agree, I LOVE character driven books
Joanne, that's great to hear that you're enjoying the book and Cathryn, let's hope you love it too.