Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What's Next for This Writer's Blog?

What’s next?
I started this blog in January of 2013 to share my journey as a writer. Sharing my own research about crafting a novel, including my readers in both my victories and mistakes along the way, I hope I have ultimately encouraged people who have a strong desire to put on paper the stories floating about in their heads.

Some of my readers have connected with me through this blog and asked questions about blogging and the behind the scenes pieces of publishing. I have answered each of those requests to the best of my ability and with the notion that I do not have all the answers.

A friend recently “caught up” on reading some of my back posts and told me the ones she found most helpful in writing her first novel. I started thinking about that. What has been the most helpful to new writers? Writers in the process? Readers? Below is a partial list of posts by category. [You can click on any topic to review that post, if you like.]

Here is the real question: What has been most beneficial? What do YOU want to see in the future here?

In other words, WHAT’S NEXT?

Be sure to respond…I have a couple of gift cards to give away! For the drawing, put your comments below, enter them on my Rebecca Waters Author Facebook Page, or email me with your blog suggestions. I’ll announce the winners next week.

In the category of Crafting a Novel, I have multiple entries, including posts on plot, character, point of view, and editing. Among others. Here are a few of the most popular posts:

Another category related to writing might be termed the Business of Writing. These include drafting a business plan, getting the most out of conferences, blogging, publishing, and marketing.

Another popular category is Author Interviews and Guest Posts. Check out these examples:

The final category of posts could be called Personal. These have been part of “my story.”

Be sure to comment. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ethan: Interview with an Antagonist

noun: a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.

Me:  Ethan, tell us a little about yourself.

Ethan: Oh, well…uh, I’m 34 years old. Married. I have two great kids, Robbie and Drew and I’m a sales rep for a fixture company.

Me: Fixture company?

Ethan: You know, faucets for your bathroom and kitchen and so forth. We are pretty high end. I handle commercial accounts. Hotels and office buildings and such. I have a huge account pending now with a resort developer. Huge.
Me: That’s great. And you work out of Cincinnati?

Ethan: Our home office is in St. Louis, but I work here, yeah.

Me: Well, as you know, I’m writing a novel and created your mom as my main character. You emerge as the antagonist and I wanted to get your view on that.

Ethan: Antagonist? Me? You’ve got to be kidding! I love my mom. I’ve done everything for her since Dad died. What gives you the right to call me an antagonist?

Me: Let’s look at what I have. You tell me if I’m right or wrong. First, your mother feels that you treat her like a child.

Ethan: What?! That’s ridiculous. I promised Dad I’d take care of her. But she’s been acting weird lately. I just want to make sure she’s okay, that’s all.

Me: What do you mean she’s been acting “weird?”

Ethan: You should know. She wants to go back to work for one thing. She doesn’t need the money. I don’t get it.

Me: She wants to feel productive. Needed.
Ethan: That’s what my wife says. But that’s not all. Mom started square dancing again.

Me: So?

Ethan: Think about it. It takes two to tango as they say. You have to have a partner. What if she meets someone?

Me: It’s been more than four years since your dad died. Would it be awful if she did meet a nice man?

Ethan: In this day and age? How can you tell if someone is nice? I don’t want her to meet some con artist preying on vulnerable women.

Me: Your mother is an intelligent woman. I know. I created her. I trust her to make good choices. As the antagonist, though, you are standing in her way. Why? What is it you hope to accomplish?

Ethan: You mean, like do I have an agenda? No! I just want to take care of her. I want her to be happy. Normal. She doesn’t need anyone else. She has me and my sister.

Me: You say you want to take care of her, but you can’t do it all. Remember on page eighteen when it snowed and you told her you were going to come over after work and bring her some stuff from the store that she needed but you forgot.

Ethan: Hey, read what you wrote. I would have come over early and shoveled her driveway but some neighbor did it for her. There was no big hurry. And as for the groceries, none of them were critical. I meant to pick the stuff up but I had one meeting after another and by the time I got in my car, I was on automatic pilot.

Me: You didn’t even call.

Ethan: Okay, so I was a little distracted. That’s one time. She wanted a garage door opener, right? I got it for her. She asks us over for dinner, right? We come.

Me: Sometimes. But she wants more. Needs more. You’re her son.

Ethan: She has a bunch of friends at church. A bunch of women in her Sunday school class. She gets out with them.

Me: Do you think you feel threatened by the idea of a man in your mom’s life.

Ethan: Not me. I don’t’ feel threatened. I just don’t want her to get mixed up with the wrong person.

Me: So what would the right person be like?

Ethan: I don’t know. I guess someone like Dad. And that’s th point. There really isn’t anyone out there like Dad.

Me: As the writer of this story, I think you are probably going to be making waves through most of it. Causing your mother to worry and fret and second guess herself. I think you need a change of heart.

Ethan: You’re the writer. If you want me to be different make it so.

Me: What would it take?

Ethan: To see things the way she does? I don’t know. About twenty years? Some life-changing experience?

Me: I’ll keep that in mind. Let’s change the subject.

Ethan: Yes!

Me: Let’s talk about your flaws.

Ethan: You are relentless!

Me: Poor choice of words. Flaws. Weaknesses. Actually, I read where the antagonist should have some of the same flaws we all have. Things that make you relatable.

Ethan: I guess Mom would say I’m addicted to sports. My wife, Cheryl, would say I’m a workaholic. Neither is true. My dad used to say whatever is your strength can also be your weakness. I do work hard. I provide for my family. I’m building us a future. And when I get home I like to unwind. Catch a game on television. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

Me: So what would you say is your greatest flaw.

Ethan: Hmm…I guess I get distracted so sometimes I’m not fully engaged. What do you say?

Me: Well, so far, I’d have to say I agree with all of you. You are distracted. Distracted with work. Distracted with sports. I think it’s a matter of getting your priorities straight. You simply can’t be all things to all people. Does your career come before your family?

Ethan: Of course not! And I don’t want to be considered an antagonist, either. So I’d appreciate it if you’d do a little creative work with that pen of yours and change things up a bit.

Me: Sorry, Ethan. Every story needs and antagonist. I do promise to try to make you interesting and relatable, though. I may even find a way to have you mellow a bit through it all. Show your tender side. Fair enough?

Ethan: Deal.

Me: Readers, What kinds of torment do you think Ethan may create for his mom? I have a few ideas in the works. More importantly, I hope you can see how an exercise like this can help you as a writer begin to get in the head of your antagonist. Comments comments desired!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Loving the Bad Guy...or Girl

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to rethink my characters. I want my characters to have “attitude” and “spunk.” I want my protagonist to demonstrate a strength she didn’t even know she had in her.

"A strong antagonist makes a strong protagonist"
Janice Hardy
Today I want to address the antagonist. I like the idea of my antagonist having some sort of past that will explain his actions. I don’t want to excuse bad behavior but I do want to understand why the character who seemingly stands in the way of my protagonist does what he does. The antagonist has some purpose in mind, right? I know an antagonist could be inherently mean or selfish. In my current work, however, I think the antagonist honestly thinks what he is doing is in the best interest of the protagonist.  It is Dottie’s son.

I began by trying to see his perspective.

We often view the antagonist as evil or at least a very dark character. They are often viewed as the villain. Of course there are authors out there who break that rule on a regular basis and have us love the rogue character.

Let’s face it… two wrongs do not make a right. Therefore, even though the antics of Robin Hood intrigued me as a child and the Sheriff of Nottingham was indeed treating people badly, stealing is stealing. Robin was a thief. In any other law and order story, the Sherriff would have been the protagonist, rightfully capturing and imprisoning the criminal.

I want Dottie’s son to be loveable and intriguing as well. I don't want him to be evil. I want him to be strong-willed. I went online to research the development of the antagonist.  I read at least a dozen posts about antagonists. I found two that stand out above the rest. I’m sharing what I learned here so you have the benefit of my research.

Janice Hardy writes, “A strong antagonist makes a strong protagonist…” So how do you write in a strong antagonist?

First you need to know your antagonist. What is his purpose or goal? My antagonist isn’t so intriguing as Robin Hood. He’s a son trying to look out for his mother.

Award winning author Kathy Steffens suggests we write the story from the antagonist’s point of view even if we never use it in our manuscript, we get to know our antagonist…what make him tick…before we begin writing our story. It would be like interviewing the antagonist. At the very least, the story would be outlined from his perspective. As I did this, I see that much of what Dottie’s son, Ethan does for her in the name of “caring” is perceived by Dottie as him trying to control her life.

I recently read the first two books in The Windy City Series by Dave and Neta Jackson. They wrote them as “parallel” novels so they incorporate some of the same characters and events and conversations. The difference is the plotline and the point of view. In other words, the stories take place at the same time and intersect where the characters intersect.

Anyway, I started thinking about creating a strong antagonist and wonder what parallel novels might look like if we could write one from the protagonist POV and then in the second, tell the story from the antagonist POV. It has probably been done, but I can’t think of where.  Do I have another story where Ethan is the protagonist? Uh…I’m rambling now. Back to building a strong antagonist. An opponent worthy of my main character. A person who will indeed challenge her to change and become the strong woman I suspect hides within. As I do so I want to also take care of Ethan. I want him to come out of this as a better person as well. Is that asking too much?

In reading Janice Hardy’s post and Kathy Steffens tips for developing my antagonist in a powerful way, two points grabbed my attention. I wrote these down at the top of the character sheet I created for Ethan.

1. What is he trying to accomplish? What is his goal? That of course leads to a long list of possible ways he tries to do what he wants or perceives as best for his widowed mother. In turn, those surface as roadblocks to Dottie in her quest to reclaim her life.

2. What flaws does my antagonist have? Steffens reminds us that the antagonist needs to be “flawed in some relatable way.” I like Ethan. He’s trying.  He doesn’t always follow through and he often treats his mom as a child, but I need to now look at his other flaws. They should be easy to find. We all have them.

I’m including the links to these articles by Steffens and Hardy. Be sure to read them. You can count this as your “education piece” this week.

One of the best articles out there is a post by award winning author Kathy Steffens. It is called Ten Tips for a Terrific Antagonist and can be found here:

Janice Hardy offers Ten Traits of a Strong Antagonist in her blog Fiction University.

Who is your favorite “bad guy?” Please be sure to post your comments below.