Character Madness Monday

When asked by Jena Baxter to join in her Character Madness Monday blog I jumped at the chance. This is a fun blog where her characters interview one of your own. What results can be a mix of mayhem and hilarity, as I found out when I sent Katie Giordano to be interviewed.

Katie

Katie is the female main character of a short story I wrote to be included in The Bowman’s Inn. If you lurve romance then this anthology is for you; it will be published in April – so very soon!

When she was sixteen, Katie Giordano left home and followed who she thought was the man of her dreams all the way to New York. Years later, having realized he is a loser, she feels trapped until a letter arrives from a lawyer in her home town with the news that she has inherited an ice cream parlor, along with the apartment above. After a long Greyhound bus ride, with nothing to show except a suitcase of clothes, she arrives in Anteros to discover the parlor has been usurped and the apartment devoid of all furniture.

Here is an extract to whet your appetite:

Mac shrugged. “They owe me a favor.”
“Hnh.” She cocked her head to one side. “You’re still here, so what do you owe me?”
He grinned. “Nothing.”
“Then why are you still here?”
“To make sure you owe me. Then I get free ice cream.”
“As long as you realize that’s all you’ll be getting.” Katie tugged on the door handle to go upstairs and, after a thought, held it open for Mac to go through first.
He raised an eyebrow. “You being polite?”
“Well, you know, roaches down here, might be one up there, too.”
“Ah. Don doesn’t live here, you know.”
“A man doesn’t have to live somewhere to leave his mark. Territorial beasts.”
He snorted with laughter. “And by letting me go first, you’re ceding the territory to me.” He paused in front of her, eyes crinkling at the corners. “I find that very interesting.”
His closeness kindled images of being pushed up against the wall and being thoroughly and slowly kissed. Her mouth dried. She swatted at him. “Go on. You’ll get the cobwebs first. I hate spiders.”
He climbed the wooden stairs. The magenta runner needed replacing. What else needed updating? Regardless, she had a home. What if it was full of her things? She shivered, and set off behind Mac, trying not to stare at his tight backside.
He whirled and threw something at her.

She screamed.

 

That’s all for now, please visit Jena’s excellent Blog, and if you liked the snippet, I hope you’ll buy the anthology, it’s a good, fun, romantic read.

The Canyon

 

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The twisted layers of pinks, oranges and browns, the flashes of red and green hypnotize me, pull me forward. Vaguely aware of murmurs behind, I step nearer, closer.

‘Stop!’ Someone, a man, calls out, but I ignore him and soon human noise melds seamlessly with nature’s hush.
I stare to the right, down the canyon. The Colorado river is but a distant hiss on the edges of my awareness. All I am is concentrated on the yawning space below.

The Chasm. Was it really formed over thousands, nay, millions of years by the thin brown snake now languishing beneath? It must have been a much larger river at some point to create this yaw, this immensity. I slowly ease cross-legged on to the smooth ledge that juts from under the rim.

The Rim. What a perfect way to describe the edge of mortality.

For a moment or two, I close my eyes and listen. Emptiness isn’t silent. It breathes, this canyon, from the tugging whispers of the wind to the headlong rush of the river. I am alone here. Alone with nothingness; alone in beauty.

The clatter of stones into the abyss is an ugly intrusion, like a screech mid-sentence, a whiff of unpleasance amidst perfumes of rose and jasmine. Motionless with regret for a moment, I hold my breath to see if I would hear them arrive at their eternal rest, but any rattle is swallowed by the susurration of stillness.

I shift again, sending more pebbles down through the layers of time, and wonder what those ancients thought when they beheld this gaping wound in the land. Perhaps the red rocks are the canyon’s blood, draining to the river that sliced ever deeper.

This is not my first time here, but this is the first time I have obeyed the crushing whim to seek the truth of this ravine, to find the answer to the eternal question.

My heart beats faster as I contemplate what I wish, nay, need to do. Inhaling deeply of heat and pine, I open my eyes and look down. The Emptiness weighs heavy, like something trying to suffocate me. I lean forward and breathe the beckoning call of allure, the draw of desire. Would I float? I think I might.

Vertigo crashes over me and I’m falling, flying. A scream burdens my lungs, pushing to escape. Am I up? Am I down?
Instead of a harsh, strident shriek, there are only whispers – flutterings of sound that kiss.

My legs grow numb and I smile, for now I am flying. I can no longer feel the rock digging into my bottom. I can float, after all. With the deep blue stretched above me, the rich, pastel hues and striations below, I am part of God’s painting.

Me. Only me.

 

 

Perfume Is Good For Your Self-Esteem

Perfume Is Good For Your Self-Esteem.

 

Well, I thought I knew this already. Turns out although I knew it in my head, my self-esteem didn’t have a clue.

It’s been a while since I had the money to treat myself to some perfume and I have been scraping the bottoms of old bottles, but this week I finally had a little spare cash and bought a new one! It’s a small bottle, but was reduced by 20% which made it all the more attractive. I had tried it on several previous occasions and had liked it. (My one trick when I have no perfume is to head straight to a store and spray myself liberally; that way I smell good for free!)

This afternoon I was outside with my youngest, blowing bubbles for him to burst. Every so often I would catch a subtle, lovely scent and think, ‘What’s that? That smells nice…’ and then remember – it’s me:D

To know that I smelt good did something tangible for my self-esteem. For the first time in a long time I felt worthwhile, as though I had a place here on earth. All too often my self-esteem has been so low that I have even wanted to apologise for my existence. Feeling good about myself this afternoon, due to a perfume, came as a wonderful surprise. I felt more whole than I had done in a long time, as though a small essence of myself had been recaptured and put into a bottle for me to spray back.

I am not the first to discover this link between smell and how we feel. Psychology Today has an article about The Hidden Force of Fragrance. Rachel Herz – a world-renowned expert on the psychology of smell – says: “A smell reminder can really conjure the person, more than just looking at a photo,” she says. “You actually get the feeling of the person from the smell.” She has written (amongst others) a book: The Scent of Desire, in which she talks about how important the sense of smell is to our mental health and well-being. This book is going on my wish list.

Maybe, just maybe, when I spray this perfume I can feel myself through the smell. I conjure myself. I am, in that fleeting moment, a whole person once more.

 

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How Important Are Emotions When Driving A Character?

How important are emotions in driving a character?

(This is something I also posted on the Happy Authors Guild blog. Check it out, there are lots of fabulous posts from many different writers)
I’ve been mulling this over this past week and had a few thoughts. Feel free to disagree, this is just what was going through my head:)
There are many driving forces behind a character’s behaviour. Needs. Wants. Desires. Revenge. Behind these, either tagging along like cans tied to a newlyweds car or compressing a person until they feel like they will explode, are emotions.

The first three (needs, wants, desires) are often stepping stones into the depth of emotion a person will attach to one of these. For example, the desire to share your life with someone can morph into a want, which then changes to a need. The initial desire comes with the feeling that it would be nice, pleasant, normal. If the desire goes unfulfilled, then the emotions deepen. If the ‘want’ goes unfulfilled, emotions go deeper, and often start to deceive us. A character can think, ‘Why am I the only one not married? Why am I the only one struggling financially?’ It’s easy to slip into thoughts that slowly lead down into a maelstrom of self-pity, anger, depression and fear. (At this point, can I just clarify that not everyone is like this, but it can help to see where a character can go emotionally due to an unfulfilled need.)

Need is often associated with desperation and fear. If I don’t have shelter I may die of cold. If I don’t have enough to eat I will starve. If I don’t find someone to love me I will stay alone. Suffer alone. Age alone. Die alone. If a person cannot meet their own needs, then helplessness, hopelessness and depression can follow.

Want (when not a ‘need’) can be associated with selfishness and inconsideration of others, an assumption that others don’t matter. Some people want to be rich, and will do anything to achieve that – even if it means stamping others down.

Desires can take many forms. In romance novels, sexual desires can often be the main driving force (at first) behind a character. In a thriller, the detective will have the desire to catch a thief or a murderer. When this desire is unfulfilled, then it becomes a want, a need. The passion behind increases, the driving force impels the character to perhaps take more risks.

So emotions drive us in many ways.

Consider yourself. When you wake up in the morning how do you feel? Tired? Buzzing? Still upset at something someone said yesterday? Still slightly drunk???

I know when I wake up tired it colours my whole day a darker shade of whatever hue I feel. Our emotions and reactions colour the way we think and act, likewise with our characters. If some trauma happened when a character was young, that will affect almost everything about them. Even if they shut it out, the fact that they have shut down a part of them means a part of them is missing, regardless how broken up that part is. When does a character learn fear? Love? Consequences of various actions?

In the current medieval novel I am working on, I have a sixteen year old girl who had a traumatic experience when she was about 9. She has shut this out, yet occasionally has nightmares. I have struggled with her character because it isn’t rounded. Part of her is hidden from me, and until she comes to terms with what happened and is willing to remember, it will stay hidden. She has fears, and anxieties which come from this hidden place and these affect her, yet her emotions are dampened because she pushes them down. So it has been difficult to write from her pov, and the novel has turned into one more about her mother while Annie remembers. When she has remembered, she will be much rounder; I will be better able to write her because I know where she is coming from.

Do you know what your characters are feeling in every scene? Do you ‘soul-hop’? I find if I know what a character is feeling, then the dialogue and actions flow easily and naturally. If I don’t know, then everything feels stilted and awkward.

Experiences affect characters differently. One might shrug off an insult, another might take a swing. Another might bear a grudge and nurse it until the tree of bitterness bears the fruit of hatred. Yet all will then adjust their behaviour accordingly. The one who shrugs the insult off may well avoid that person. The one who takes a swing might end up in jail; the one who nurses a grudge may end up sinking into paranoia. A seemingly insignificant detail can end up having pond-wide ripples, which is why, for me, it’s so important knowing how they feel. If I can identify with my own characters, then I have the hope readers will, too.

 

What do you think? How important are emotions in driving your characters? What do your characters first desire, then want, then need? Is the carrot that is being dangled before them always out of reach, or can they take a bite every now and then, thus increasing the fervency with which they seek more?

 

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Writers – What Kind Of Pants Do You Wear?

I have always been a pantser.

My first novel, The Traitor’s Legacy, was pantsed and my second is too. However, it takes me an inordinate amount of time to actually get a novel written, and I have started to wonder if this is because I write by the seat of my pants. I mean, can I keep blaming my two lively boys and the housework and my Proofreading course? (Yes, of course I can, but there must be something else since I use all of these to procrastinate). Sometimes it takes a while for the characters to tell me what they are doing. Sometimes, horrors, I get stuck, or my characters do nothing for a while, and I wonder if plotters suffer similar issues.

If I plotted a novel, then I could write a scene a day. I may even write a novel in 45 days a la Nora Roberts. I could write five or six novels a year! Except, I know I would get half way through a scene and yawn with boredom,since I know what’s coming next. With pantsing I never know, and that’s fun. But not knowing, can sometimes mean Not Ever Knowing. Ha. And this is where a combination of plotting and pantsing can have the edge. Plot the main arc, but let your characters lead in the scenes.

I hit on a brilliant way of kick-starting a novel again. Wake up in the middle of the night and let your imagination run wild with your characters. They will do things you never intended, or thought of. For example, my hero is going to put my heroine in a dungeon and leave her there. I would never have thought of this as the next step in months of plotting, yet this is the next logical step for the hero, and utterly in character.

So… what kind of pants do you wear? Control briefs (i.e. needing a lot of plotting aid)? Hipsters (i.e. some plotting, but the lace indicates a racy edge)? Tangas (flirt with the idea of having very little plotting)? Or, g-strings (i.e. very flimsy plotting control)?

I do normally have the flimsiest plotting control, but am toying with the idea of plotting out a series of short stories. This could be fun, I am thinking, because, well, how much lace would I like? How much elastic? How much sheer fabric?

I have always been a sworn g-string pantser but maybe, just maybe, those control briefs might be comfortable, might even (horrors) fit me better.

 

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