Justine: Fiction Fundamentals…Writing Great Characters

bunch of charactersWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. When I approached the topic of writing great characters, I didn’t realize how much information you, New Writer, should know about what really makes them sizzle until I went back and looked at the pages of notes I’d collected and the long list of bookmarks in my browser. I’ve been absorbing this for over three years, between classes at McDaniel, blog posts I’ve read, conference lectures I’ve attended, and web classes I’ve taken.

Rather than write a 10K word blog post (because really, I could, there’s so much great info about writing good characters), I’m going to Continue reading

Michaeline: Evita’s Structure and Conflict

Official portrait of the Perons in evening dress looking very happy.

Eva Peron doesn’t look like an action hero with agency, but oh, how she hustled. She moved half a continent by the time she died. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, I’ve been plowing through snowstorms in the car while listening to the soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Evita. It’s perfect music for when you are crawling along at 35 km per hour (what is that in miles? I’m not sure, but I’m afraid it’ll sound even more dreadfully slow). There’s a warm Latin beat, and the white-hot chronic anger of the heroine fueling various project. It makes me feel cozy in my little rolling deathtrap.

I don’t think anyone would deny that Evita works. According to the Internet Broadway Database, it’s been performed 1,567 times, and according to Wikipedia, it took award after award in 1978 and 1980. And I love it. But the heroine’s goal is a little fuzzy, and there isn’t a single overarching conflict lock that unites the story.

Evita is the story of a young Argentinian girl who goes to the capital at the age of fifteen, then proceeds to get modelling jobs, movie jobs, radio serials and finally the heart of a military man and through him, the reins to control the country. And then she dies, because . . . Continue reading

Elizabeth: Celebrating Nancy Drew (and resilience)

The original cover for the first Nancy Drew mystery, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” published April 28, 1930.

The original cover for the first Nancy Drew mystery, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” published April 28, 1930.

Over the past few weeks, our own Nancy talked about series here and here. Her posts got me to thinking about the very first series I remember reading: The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. You’ve undoubtedly all read at least some of them and maybe you even have a few of the familiar yellow bound books around the house somewhere.

This year marks the 85th year that the books have been in print. At a time when books can often fade into oblivion as soon as they’ve been read, these stories have shown remarkable staying power. Recent statistics I saw show that 80 million of the books have been sold worldwide and they have been translated into over 40 languages. That’s quite a feat.

For many young girls Nancy Drew launched a life-time love of reading and she inspired countless others to try their hand at telling their own stories. Show of hands – who has a smudged, hand-written attempt at the bottom of a drawer or box? The Clue in the Dusty Garage anyone? Continue reading

Nancy: A Girl Anachronism

"Two Strings to Her Bow" by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

“Two Strings to Her Bow” by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

This past week, on one of the author loops I read, someone posted about her preference to read historical romances in which heroines either don’t step outside the bounds of the time period’s social structures, or suffer (social) consequences if they do. While I don’t want my 19th-century heroines to read like 21st-century women, I can’t get on board with keeping our heroines from stepping over the lines or cutting off their toes if they do.

During our McDaniel classes, we discussed the need for characters, especially protagonists, to be in some ways larger or better or more interesting in stories than most of us are in real life. A story about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives under ordinary circumstances just isn’t likely to be a very riveting read. One or more of those ‘ordinaries’ need to become extraordinary to make our fictional worlds worth exploring. And I want my historical heroines, whether I’m reading about them or writing about them, to be extraordinary. Continue reading