“Make it blue.” – “No. It stays green.”

Nothing spices up a good character interaction like a little disagreement. Conflict in the obvious can be instrumental. For example, the first sentence I wrote was a disagreement. “No Joe, I don’t believe in superheroes.”  In one sentence, I established a contrast in opinion between two people. The conversation goes on and is the introduction to the story and the speaker’s journey.

A well-done argument is not always easy to do. Especially if the subject matter is a personal point to be proven by the writer. To be convincing they will have to be able to see the other side of the argument. To be able to portray the conflict evenly. Perhaps they come to agreement, perhaps not. Realistically people are not as bending as you might think. The stodgy set in their ways true believer is not going to come around in one conversation. When I create a disagreement, it is like a mini story in its own. Whether it is resolved within the conversation or throughout the story doesn’t matter. It needs to have a reason and resolution. That doesn’t mean one side is vindicated, it could mean it results in a divide between friends or allies. It could lead to them becoming enemies or better friends. For every great conflict, one side is right and one side is wrong in the eyes of the beholder. It’s all about perspective.

Debating is a great way to get a good grasp on how to see things from the other side. If I want to pick a fight or argue intelligently, I take the time to research what I’m opposed to. I prepare to fight for what I’m against. It is interesting and fun.

Silly or serious. Good or bad, disagreements give characters depth, a glimpse into their personality.

There are subjects I don’t touch such as real politics (including war), religion and the judicial system. They are in the hot topic category and unless that is what my book is about, I don’t like to make them a point of heated contention between characters. This can alienate a reader if I’m one sided, if I can’t be objective I leave it be. I’m writing to entertain not bludgeon my readers with my opinions or beliefs.

I’ll start by listing the pros and cons of the subject matter so I can give both sides proper ammunition. I’m careful not to make it about personal tastes and more about beliefs.  Fighting over cream in coffee is petty and unless it is key to the story or character development, it’s not interesting.

Sasha tilted her head and cracked her neck. She worked for hours on this layout and green was the best option. It suited the product, the point and looked awesome. “I’m not changing it.”
“It should be blue.” Valery crossed her arms. “The soap is yellow; green just makes it look ill.”
Sasha put her hands on her hips met Valery’s eyes. “Soap can’t look ill.”
“Make it blue. I like blue better.”
“No. I like green it’s staying green.”
Valery tilted her head. “Do both, let the client decide.”
“No” Sasha shook her head. “It stays green end of story.”
“Fine, you’re on your own with this one Sasha. Good luck.” Valery stormed out of the office attempting to slam the door. It eased closed. The boss installed the hydraulic door closers after he got tired of the hot tempers of his staff. Sasha looked at the screen after her friend was gone. It looked fine in green.

That was a generic argument with little substance, reason or resolution. They are bickering like children who just want it their way. How about a little backup for Valery and a reason for Sasha.

Sasha tilted her head and cracked her neck. She worked for hours on this layout and green was the best option and she loved green. It’s what the client wanted, it suited the product, the point and looked awesome. “I’m not changing it.”
“The background should be blue.” Valery crossed her arms. “The soap is yellow, green just makes it look ill.”
Sasha put her hands on her hips met Valery’s eyes. “Soap cant look ill.”
“Blue is a contrasting colour. It will draw the focus to the product first then the words.”
“No. I like green. It’s staying green.” Sasha looked at the screen. The words were the first thing you noticed, that was what she intended.
“Sasha, I love the style, layout and the font is perfect, but the attention is the soap, not the slogan. One change, just the colour.” Valery tilted her head. “Do both, let the client decide.”
“No, it’s staying green end of story.”
“It will be the end of the account fi you can’t be flexible. Do both.”
“I like the green, I like that the slogan comes first. That was the point they are rebranding not selling the same thing over again.”
“They are selling the same old thing. Your job is to make it more noticeable, fresh and new even though it’s not. Green is what they did before, that is just a darker shade of the same thing that didn’t work.”
It was a risk to use blue, the client asked for green; Sasha was giving them what they wanted. “It stays green.”
“Fine have it your way. You’re on your own with this one Sasha. Good luck.” Valery stormed out of the office attempting to slam the door. It eased closed. The boss installed the hydraulic door closers after he got tired of the hot tempers of his staff.
Sasha looked at the screen after her friend was gone and reached for the mouse. “What would it look like in blue?”

The point of this conflict was to open Sasha’s eyes to being flexible and taking chances. Her character development grows fast from here. By taking a risk and going against the grain, she finds her flair and confidence for thinking outside the box. Her friend Valery always saw Sasha’s potential so pushed her.

Conflict doesn’t have to be controversial or in your face yelling. It can be subtle too.

Cal clenched his jaw as he watched Gael count the cash and tuck it into the little black folder.
Gael stood grabbed his jacket and turned to Cal. “You’re turn next week.”
“Next week.” Cal shook Gaels hand and smiled as he walked away. Turning back to the table he slipped ten dollars into the folder to cover the tip. “Cheap bastard.” Cal nuttered as he left.

This could be left as is, or it could come up later as crappy karma for Gael or even good karma for Cal. They might end up in a heated argument and Cal might toss this thrifty selfishness as ammunition for something greater. Bottom line Gael is cheap and thoughtless for the server who worked hard. Cal being the too honest detective, couldn’t just leave it be. Subtle tension or conflict of interest is my favorite way of building up to a fall out or fight.

My advice about conflict
Subtle or explosive it should have an impact and a point to the story or characters.

-Sheryl

Oops! What did I just say?

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Disagree
Yellow

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

There is a part of my writing that makes me actually sit up and enter typo land as their unchallenged champion.

Violence and action. I LOVE a good action scene in a book, especially when it’s fun, interesting and Fierce. When I’m preparing to write my own, I sit and envision the scene over and over. Each persons’ actions and reactions and what’s going on around them. It’s a lot to take in let alone get out into written word.

My first action fight scene is a long one, several chapters in fact. It had to be, a lot happens. The entire story is pulled in, the whole point of it all is laid out and the villains for the next book are introduced and humanized.

That isn’t the first violent action scene in the book, but the first one I wrote. After I finished the first draft it was evident something was missing. So I wrote an intriguing and dangerous introduction for a character who is basically the reason the whole story takes place. I honed and revised that chapter so many times until I knew it flowed well and was pleasing to the imagination.

Writing violence is fun, but risky. The temptation to become melodramatic, cheesy or start telling vs showing is strong. I had oodles of tag lines, filter words and typos in the action scenes. Some of the reactions were over the top and they needed to be toned down to more realistic responses. Sure the science fiction allows for a certain amount of embellishment in the action department, but even fantastic it needed to be believable within the parameters I set throughout the story.

My advice about action and violence.
Get it out of your mind and onto paper or the screen. Once there, whip it into shape and draw the reader in by showing not telling the events. Action is exciting and violence is thrilling, it’s a great way to jolt a timid story or give a character reason to progress, regress or become someone altogether different.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

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Tulips in July

The story I wrote takes place in “real time” by that I mean an imagined year of the current year. I was about halfway through when I realized to interact with the world around them I needed to know exactly what day of the year it is. It would be silly to have them looking at tulips in July. It became apparent that I needed to keep track of time as well as the characters.

So I printed out a generic calendar from about ten years from now. It isn’t important that I say it’s April 17th, but it is important to stay on track.

As I went back to the beginning, I wrote down any significant plot events on the calendar. As I moved forward I discovered that by the end of the book, the story was off by two weeks. At the beginning I eluded how long they would be working for. Instead of changing the conversation that outlined the length of the summer job, I wrote the difference in. It gave me the opportunity to add a little more dynamic to the mystery that I hadn’t thought about before. Fifty  days in, someone in charge slips up and gives the protagonist has a very large clue. This is an important event. That clue leads her quickly to solve the grand mystery just in time. I actually planned it to be that day so if I refer back it’s an easy number to remember.

Having a timeline or calendar of events made things much easier. I can refer back to it or even have the characters refer back. At one point, the number of days is actually mentioned. If a reader were to follow along that carefully, they would find it accurate. Even though it is a fantasy, some reality is required.

My advice about time lines.
Use them even if it’s not important it’s a fantastic way to keep track of events or interactions that drive the story. Did Joe make the ominous phone call before or after he got the internship? If I need to check I can refer to a calendar and not have to flip back chapters to find it if I forget.

-Sheryl

Here is a link to a previous post. The first Fifty  pages. Why are they so important?

The first 50 pages.

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What happened to that guy?

The forgotten character who hasn’t spoken in chapters. Yeah, I know, sometimes people are forgettable. That is a problem. Now I have to bring them back into the storyline.

This has happened to me twice. I will admit it because this is an opportunity in my opinion. If I’ve neglected them it’s for a reason. I have imagined the story progressing without them. I figure out why and then find a solution. Are they boring? Not enough personality? Are they crucial to the story? Do they complicate things unnecessarily?

For me, it’s a chance to spice someone up or darken their edges. Make them more likely to insult, or cower or perhaps say something funny. A good villain can be born from dialogue neglect. If I’ve neglected them maybe my characters have neglected him too. Make it an issue in the story. I could go back and make them moody or shy. The options are endless.

My advice about inadvertently leaving a character behind.

In my opinion, a flat character is your chance to shake it up. If all else fails, kill them in a relevant way to the plot or main character development. That way the reader won’t be asking “what happened to Bob?” Because they will know. Bob stepped into traffic and was hit by a car. He was sad and distracted about Juan ignoring him for three freaking chapters. Now Juan is riddled with remorse.

-Sheryl

 

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To live life: Do what makes you feel alive.

BiaAtlas1

I often find myself thinking about working on my book. Whether it’s writing or editing,  I enjoy it immensely. Daily I tuck situations or conversation tidbits away for future reference. I can’t help it. Would that work for the antagonist? What if my protagonist had someone talk to her that way? I find inspiration everywhere and it has really opened my eyes. I see more, I hear more and I pay better attention.

I have had the questions come up, “How can you work on it so much?” or “Why do you spend so much time writing?” (and variations on that theme)

The answer is simple and it’s easy to explain in context. I look at the person asking and I think about something they do in their spare time that they love more than anything else. Whether it’s reading, playing video games, fishing, dancing or whatever they do a lot of. I then say, “You know that feeling you get when you –fill in the blank-? It’s the same thing for me when I’m writing or editing my books.” It is okay if they don’t understand, they don’t have to.

When I’m passionate about something it’s a thrill to see it through. I’ve had more than a few hobbies and many ebb and flow in my desire to partake, but once I found my literary confidence I find my craving for writing is steady.

My advice about doing what you love.
To put it simply I love what I do and do what I love. That is honestly what I believe the point of it all to be. Whether it’s writing or snowboarding or stand-up comedy, if you become excited thinking about something and it fills you with joy, don’t ignore it or let others drag you down. If you are fortunate enough to discover your passion run with it. Do what makes you feel alive.

-Sheryl

 

 

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