Let Your Characters Run The Show

When it comes to creating a new story, my process begins with a character. Something puts that first spark of life into my mind – something I saw or heard throughout the day, a movie or TV show, waking up with it already brewing in my mind, you know – and he (or she) becomes the basis of my new story. A new character will occupy my mind to the exclusion of all else for days on end while my brain unravels all of his secrets – his back story, his relationship to his family, his favorite things, what makes him tick, personality, style, quirks, the car he drives, what he wants out of life… it never ends. I can tell you what any one of my characters would do in any given situation; often I know them better than I know myself.

Once they are given life and free reign to roam about in my mind as they please, they start telling me what they want to do. I can argue all I want, but they always win. They have to, or my story fails.

For example ~ with the story I’m working on now, at first I intended it to be more of a tender, shy meeting between my two leading men – Charlie and Jeff. I’m happily plugging away at my laptop, halfway through my outline, when Charlie decides to make demands.

Charlie: “You know boss, I gotta tell ya… this plot sucks. I’m bored. Jeff’s boring. I need a guy who’s heroic! Someone dreamy! I want to be rescued, swept off my feet!”

B: “Ok, Charlie. I’m listening. Tell me how this should go.”

And he did. He decided he wanted to try skiing this holiday season, so off to a ski lodge he went. He wanted Jeff to swoop in and rescue him from an otherwise grim skiing accident, so I threw him off a ledge and broke his arm. He needed their relationship to start out fast and furious… then backtrack a bit to fill in the more tender, romantic stuff.

B: “Yeah, I think we can do that.”

Charlie: “Hey, can I be Australian, too?”

(/facepalm)

Let your characters tell your story. They know what they’re doing.

~B

–> For you writers out there ~ how do you get your story started? Where does that first spark of an idea come from? <–

Assessing My Day

At the end of each day, I’ve gotten into the habit of curling up somewhere with my journal (the handwritten, private, gonna-burn-when-full journal) and asking myself this question:

What steps have I taken today to bring my writing dream closer to reality?

I take some time to write down everything I feel I’ve done to reach my writing goals. If I’m not proud of what I’ve written there, if I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment, I hang my head in shame for five minutes and resolve to do better the next day. If I like what I see and feel I’ve used my time wisely, I get to go to bed content, knowing that I’m not always a lazy house cat.

~B

–> Readers ~ When working toward your own goals, what are your methods for making sure you use your time wisely? <–

Time Management

One of my biggest flaws has always been managing my time efficiently. I am chronically late – ANYwhere, doesn’t matter. When I have spare time, I have no idea what to do with myself… more often than not, I end up watching Hell’s Kitchen or something, instead of being more constructive.

Spare time is rare, as it is. I keep a full time day job which, thankfully, I am able to do from my home. Although being at home does allow me to take notes as story ideas pop up, I still have to make sure the majority of my focus is on work while I’m clocked in. My pay is based on productivity, and I have minimums to make. On top of that, now is our busiest time of year, so for several weeks now there has been a call to arms – mandatory overtime.

When I get off work, there’s no way I’m able to sit and focus on writing. It’s family time, and I have to appease a toddler that’s been begging me to play Transformers with him for the last hour of my work day. Optimus needs an adversary, and that’s my job. (Though sometimes we like to gang up on my fiance.) My little guy is up and running hardcore until about 8 – 8:30 p.m., when we wrestle him into bed and he passes out.

After that, it’s deep breath time – I get to wind down and spend some time with my fiance. This is the only time of day we have alone together, so I don’t immediately tuck my laptop under my arm and run off to a private corner somewhere once the Monster’s in bed.  I get to hang with my guy for a bit.

Too often, I don’t sit down and put my full attention into writing at the end of a work day. My brain is fried, and I whine and get lazy about writing, sometimes losing myself in a rousing game of Minecraft before stumbling off to bed. On those days I do get my ass in gear and sit down to write, I end up staying up very late, often not getting to bed until 1 – 2 a.m. Kinda kills my chances of getting up early to write.

If I sound like I’m complaining, I am. I’m lazy by nature. I’m like a house cat – I would lay around and stretch all day long if someone let me, finding little warm squares of sunlight near the windows to curl up in. But, I have to make sacrifices somewhere, and it’s going to be rough until I can quit my day job. No one ever said chasing a dream was easy.

What I was doing was setting aside my Thursday nights as my big writing night (Thursday is Friday for me – the end of my week, and the start of my weekend). I would hang with my fiance until he went to bed between midnight and 1, then migrate to the living room with snacks and Red Bull to write until the wee hours of the morning. Once I started hearing the doves at about 4:30 a.m., I packed up and went to bed, and I was allowed to sleep until the late afternoon. Sometimes I’d do this again on Friday night as well.

It’s a nice idea, and I would usually get a lot done, but this screwed my weekend. I would feel gross and out of it. Besides, that’s only once or twice a week. It has to be more.

Instead, it’s going to have to be me dedicating my spare time to writing, no matter what. If I want to get this thing done, that’s what I have to do.

~B

The Goal is Set… Now What?

What’s my first task? Now that I’ve set the goal in place, what’s next?

Well, write, of course. More specifically, write something that is meant to be published. Novels are the eventual goal – but I need a starting point, one that’s more immediately attainable. I’d like to attempt getting some shorter stories published.

A friend of mine, also a writer, introduced me to an online publisher of gay romance – Dreamspinner Press. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. They have regular anthologies and collections of short stories that they’re always accepting submissions for. They have one of their Advent Calendar collections coming out on December 1st, and the submission deadline for these stories is September 1st. I want to make that.

Dreamspinner Press publishes only gay (male) romance, anywhere from sweet and romantic to straight up erotica – which is where most of my stories fall anyway. They put out a lot of short stories and novellas, which are distributed digitally only, and they also publish full length novels, which are distributed both digitally and in paperback form.

That’s the first task: Complete and submit my short story for Dreamspinner Press’ Holiday Advent Calendar – due September 1st.

Wish me luck.

~B

My Blog, My Journey

I am a writer to the core. Each story I tell contains a fragment of my soul, transformed into characters who are dying to be seen and heard.

My goal is to make creative writing my way of life, my source of income, and my one and only “job.” Follow me on my journey to making this dream a reality. Along the way, I hope to inspire you to chase your own dreams!

~B

–> Readers ~ What is your biggest dream? <–