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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Caring about Characters

You may have picked up in a few posts that I bought "Save the Cat" to help me with plotting and to tell you the truth, I've learned a ton. I'm just now starting to actually write my first project that I planned using "Save the Cat," so I'll let you know what it lends to my process and if it was a success.

One thing it's shown me is why there needs to be set-up and moments where we truly see the characters. I want to use an example from TV. With a new baby, I have a lot of time spent in my rocker. Sometimes I read and sometimes I watch TV. The latest series I'm blasting through is "West Wing." I'd seen episodes of it here and there when it first aired on TV and really liked it.

Then I noticed something the other day. There's an episode where the President and his entourage are shot at. The President and one of his staffers are hit. I thought to myself, interesting how that didn't happen until the end of the first season. Wouldn't it have been powerful in the first one or two episodes? Maybe something to keep viewers coming back?


But really, we needed that season, all those episodes before, to care about the characters. So we could feel our heart rate jump at the first shots. So we could gasp when Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman is discovered with a gunshot wound in a critical place. So we could care.

Because we had grown to know the characters over the course of the season. Now we wanted to know what happened.

I have a project and when it was critiqued I was told that I need to cut backstory at the beginning (truth) and hook my readers. I mistakenly took that to mean I needed some action. Now I'm looking at it with new eyes. Is it too soon? Do my readers know my MC well enough to care if she falls out of the car or not?

So think about set-up (not backstory). Spend the time. Make us care.

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About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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