Chop, chop, prep that character

From bad to worse.

A character created to fall before they rise up, must do so gloriously. The way to get them there must be interesting and exciting. This takes planning and prepwork. Sometimes that can mean going backwards to add it in after the fact. This is fine especially when I’m not sure exactly where things are going until they get there.

For Sasha, the set up needs to be intriguing and potentially dangerous. Her life is shifting, mixing swiftly and the ingredients are smashing into one another causing her to see herself and her life in a different light.

I like to look at a character as if they are holding their plate above their head and I’m heaping on issues and problems for them to deal with, like potatoes and gravy at thanksgiving. The question is how much? That depends on what outcome I want.

To set Sasha up I need her distracted and her mind too full of issues. So I pile them on. I want her to be ready to accept her fall and have the new found strength to push back, get up and fight. It isn’t easy but I try to keep this subtle.

So far the issues I’ve given this particular Protagonist are:
Disapproving parents
A dark secret that makes her refuse to date
Scott pestering her to date him
Her friends nagging her to get over it and date
Baylor attacking her in her home
Amber and Dale bullying her at work
Her self-denied attraction to Detective Cal Thorn who she snubbed
And the following:

Sasha’s nerves were taught and frayed. After avoiding Scott, Amber and Dale she made it to the sanctuary of her small office. She stared off into space as Valery popped her head in the door.
“Hey you okay, why were you so late?” Valery sat primly in the chair across from Sasha’s
“Baylor got out on bail.”
“What!” Valery looked out the open door and lowered her voice as she got up and shut it. “I mean you said he might, but for real?”
“Yeah.” Sasha rubbed her forearms. “This morning, the judge didn’t hear a word I had to say, the others couldn’t identify him. The evidence is in question too. It was an utterly frustrating mess.”
Valery hugged her friend.
“He’s under watch and Detective Thorn said I would be too.”
“So would Baylor come after you?”
Sasha shook her head. “It’s not likely. The detective said if Baylor thinks he’ll walk away from this then he won’t do anything to land himself back in jail. Baylor was so charming and convincing”
“Could he get away with it?” Valery held her friend by the shoulders at arm’s length.
Sasha nodded. “The judge certainly thought so. Oh, Val it was as if she was accusing me of harassing Baylor! Thank God Detective Thorn was there, he was so kind and helpful.”
“You two are spending a lot of time together.” Valery’s suggestive tone was aimed to distract.
Heat crept up Sasha’s cheeks like flames as she looked at her friend. There was nothing she could say. It was a dammed if she agrees, and dammed if she denies type scenario. There is only one course of action possible.
“How is that new guy Jackson? Did he pass your stupid relish test?”
Valery laughed throwing her head back. “Typical Sash, deflect, deflect, deflect. No he piled the barf on his hotdog and ate it with gusto.”
“That’s too bad.” Sasha sat back down.
“Normally it would be, however he figured out that I was put off and made me tell him why.”
Sasha looked up from her hands. “And then what?”
Valery shrugged. “He promised to brush his teeth and never eat it in front of me again.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
Valery put her hand on the door handle. “I have to be, one look from him and I melt. It’s like I’m being burned when his flames for fingers touch me.” Valery chuckled and opened the door. “By the way, we’ll revisit that Detective of yours later.”
“Don’t waste your time Val, he’s just doing his job and I’m still not interested in dating.”
“Uh huh.” Valery closed the door. Her laugh, though muffled, and was easily heard.

I think I’ll add one more thing before Sasha snaps, I won’t say what just yet, but it will be a wild card.

Even though I’m tearing Sasha down it doesn’t need to be all melodrama or blatantly obvious. She is still Sasha, but more aware that things aren’t exactly as they should be, people are not who they pretend to be and her life isn’t heading the direction it needs to go.

My advice about prep-work.
Out of the blue life changing events are okay but are served better if the character is prepped properly. Give them a reason to want to grow or change, give the reader a reason to want them to.

-Sheryl

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Rejecting the rejected

BiaAtlas book update.

Well it has been 23 days since I started submitting my book to Literary Agents for representation. I got my first rejection letter from this round.  I am expecting them, after all not all agents are a good fit or are interested specifically in my genre (Even though they say they are).

A rejection letter isn’t the end of the world, I’ve talked about them before in the rejection letter.  I have to say I appreciate that they even sent one. Some agencies say ‘if you don’t hear from us within 8 weeks consider your query rejected’ or something along those lines.

Being rejected by someone or for something is a common part of our lives. Some people handle it like champs and move on while others on the other end of the spectrum dive into depression and struggle to overcome the hurdle. It also depends on how important the outcome would be and what the expectations were. How did I set myself up? To be hugely disappointed or go in knowing rejection is possible.

When and if I include rejection in my stories it’s not something I give too much though to. Why? Because I just didn’t think of it as important. Now I do. That is because it can, like so many other things I prattle on about, be pivotal to a story or character development.

So I’m going to write a fun part-chapter about rejection today.

Sasha meets Cal:

Sasha watched the handsome man approach, his dark brown eyes sparkled with interest. Anne and Valery ditched the moment they figured out he was interested in Sasha. Always interfering they giggled and snickered their way to a table to watch. He was tall, it didn’t take much to overshadow Sasha, but his height was coupled by a thick chest and broad shoulders. She did not want to be here, she did not want to be hit on, not tonight. She cast her tittering friends a death-glare as the man stopped and smiled down at her.

“I’m Cal.” He held his hand out.

Odd, this tall and impressive man didn’t employ the ancient tradition of weird pick up lines or cheesy invitations to buy her a drink.  He had a day’s growth of dark beard hair on his strong square jaw. Her inclination to touch his cheek brought a frown to her lips as she shook his hand instead. He was dangerous and far too attractive. Time to shut this down.

“Sasha.” She pulled her hand from his, picked up the lime daiquiri the bartender just set down.

“Nice to meet you Sasha.” Cal’s charming slanted smile made her palms sweat. “Christian Louboutin’s?” He gestured at her feet.

“Ah, yes?”

“You’ve been to New York?”

“No. I know how to shop on line like most humans.” She had lucked out and got them 75% off and a few others. Her size wasn’t standard so they sometimes had old stock. That they were last season or whatever they were labelled as didn’t matter one bit.  It is important for her to dress to impress for work and party. At home, she was jeans and a t-shirt kinda woman. Her suits and expensive shoes helped her land the bigger clients so she indulged on the designers discounts.

“You don’t look happy to be here Sasha.”

Again, no awkward pick up line.

“I’m not.” She dug deep to find her inner bitch. The sooner she got away from him the better. She would talk to one more guy as per the agreement with Valery and Anne, order them two more shooters each and leave as soon as they were drunk enough. “And this is not making it any better.”

“The gross frozen drink or my talking to you?” Cal tilted his head slightly.

“Both.” She glanced over at her friends who both gave her double thumb up as they sipped their daiquiris. She looked back at Cal who had followed her line of sight.

“Let me guess you’d rather be at home curled up on the couch watching a rom-com dousing your woes with a bottle of…” He smiled slightly and tapped his chin. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Norman Hardie Pinot Noir.”

Her mouth fell open, it was her favorite, and if she wasn’t drinking tequila shooters she would have had a glass or two.

“I’m not clairvoyant. You’ve glanced at the bottle behind the bar three times.”

“Oh.”

His unexpected charm was disarming.

“You’re planning on getting them drunk enough to ditch them aren’t you.” He smiled and tipped his glass toward her two friends.

“How could you know that?”

“Because Sasha you’ve been one to their three on drinks, you keep looking behind me at the exit and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re about to tell me to get lost.”

Sasha took a deep breath and huffed. “I have to talk to you for at least five more minutes.”

He leaned closer. “Hmm. To get them off your back?” The scent of cologne wafted to her nose. The luscious blend of floral, spice and masculinity was subtle and not overpowering. If Sasha wasn’t so royally unhappy right now she might have considered being nicer to the very alluring man. Of all the nights he picked this one to stroll over all sexy, nice and talk to her. Not ‘how ‘bout that rain yesterday?’ or ‘what brings you to Starches?’ Real conversation was hard to come by.

“Well then I have four and a half more minutes. What do you do for a living?”

“Graphic design.” She dropped her eyes from his face and saw Anne leave to dance with a guy she’s flirted with since they arrived. Valery shrugged and mouthed ‘your turn’.

Rolling her eyes Sasha looked back at Cal. He would be an easy target for her built up anger, resentment and underlying sadness.

“Let me save you the trouble of the crap questions Cal. I’m a Virgo, I don’t have pets, I love my job, I don’t like dancing, terrible pick-up lines or small talk. I don’t like pushy men, or the bars they prowl in. I don’t care what you do, or who you are, what you do or do not like whatsoever. Since you voluntarily strolled over, I’m using you to fulfill a promise that I would “try”. I don’t date, ever, and before you ask, I’m not interested in women either.” She looked at her watch turned to the bartender and ordered six tequila shooters.

“Well at least you love your job.” He chuckled. “How ‘bout Piña coladas? Or getting caught in the rain?”

Her lips curled up slightly, he was trying to cheer her up and he was listening. Then the reality of the song hit her as she recalled the lyrics.

“I am into yoga and I have more than half a brain. I don’t appreciate cheaters or those that plan to cheat. I’ll say it again.” She looked at her watch before glancing at Valery as she finished her drink. “I don’t date, ever. Thanks for talking to me, but you can go now. Find some other woman to charm to bed I’m not interested.”

“You sure I can’t persuade you to talk more or maybe dance?”

“No you can’t.” She shook her head, picked up the six shots on the small tray with lemon wedges and salt and walked away to Valery.

Sasha has her reasons for rejecting Cal, this is her personal torment to overcome. I look at how rejection affected myself or others I know. It can be a wealth spring of opportunity to create conflict within a characters personal life. It can inspire struggle to overcome or depression and even anger. It can bring out the inner strength and determination they didn’t know they had.

My advice about rejection.
We can’t say yes to everything, even a simple no is a rejection. Use rejection to push a character forward or down. Or to showcase an inner struggle such as Sasha’s.

-Sheryl

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Ancient