Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Muse Frame

When I start a new story, I've already decided certain things about my characters: if they are quiet or boisterous, if they are tall or short, fat or thin, if they like to eat ham sandwiches or turkey. All of those things help bring them to life, but often I am undecided about their exact look. Do they have a short nose or a long nose, do they have high bony cheekbones or soft pudgy jowels? This is where the muse frame comes in handy.

On my desk in a little pink frame where I place a photo ripped from a magazine or printed online, or sometimes a picture of one of my friends. (shown above)

Meet my latest love interest. He's a super hunky Italian with a long straight nose and eyes shadowed in the fold of his brow. When he smiles, the left side of his mouth rises ever-so-slightly higher than the right. It's as if he always has a secret, one he's never told anyone. VOILA!


And sometimes I find the picture first and try to imagine what his or her life is like. It's a great brainstorming exercise and could just spawn the idea for your next novel.


Writer friends, what do you do to help bring your characters to life? Discuss.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In the Minds of Boys

Usually a dangerous place for us girls to be. None of it makes any sense. But even if your MC is a girl, she is likely to come in contact with some boys, and they aren't all super-dreamy early 20th century vampires.

So, how do we, as female writers, make convincing male characters?

I reached out into the Twitterverse to get some suggestions of well-written YA books from a male point of view, and this is what I received:

LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctrow
STRUTS & FRETS by Jon Skovron
THE ISLAND by Gary Paulsen
PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles
AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
I AM THE CHEESE by Robert Cormier
THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier
A SEPARATE PIECE by John Knowles
CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky

Notice something? Most of them are written by men. Does this mean there is no hope for us ladies looking to expand our character base? I think not.

Why not try spending time with some boys? Yes, it is torturous at times and a response to a question or statement may often be "That's what she said", but we write best what we know. So go out, get yourself a couple of guy friends, buy tickets to the baseball game or hit the go kart track. But if one of them asks you to "Pull my finger", just say no.