where the writers are
Character development & moving your story forward

Today's reader question is actually four questions. (cracks knuckles in preparation). It's Friday, so I think I'm up for the challenge.

1. How much time should you spend developing a character?
2. Am I moving my story forward?
3. How do I figure out what happens next?
4. Keeping your hopes up while looking for an agent.

Character development -- Back when I started writing, I'd do the character building exercises where you map our all of your character's traits, down to their profession and why they chose it. For some people, this may be useful -- not for me. Generally my characters pop into my head (or get dragged into an alley or kicked out of a bar) pretty much complete personality wise. For me, the best way to develop a character is through the interaction they have with my other characters and how they fit into the story. For example, in The Trouble with Demons, Sora Niabi just popped into the chapter, and her immediate interaction and converstation with Raine established her personality.

Am I moving my story forward? Only you can know that in your gut. But to be sure of it, you need to have a "story core" for your book and a "story goal" for your protagonist. Each scene and chapter needs to progress toward answering that question or having your protag get closer to their goal. I've had to cut many a scene that didn't propel my story forward. I loved the scene, but it did nothing for the book, so it had to go. (Of course,I saved it in case it fit in another book.)

How do I figure out what happens next? My characters and the flow I've established for my book generally tell me this, but like every other writer, I write myself into a corner or smack into a brick wall. It's important not to try to force your characters into a situation or dialogue that isn't true to them. If you do that, you'll most definitely get off track. For me, if I'm stuck, the best thing for me to do is step away from the computer, get a pen & noteoad, and have a conversation with myself and my characters about why they're there and what they need to accomplish. This helps me determine what is really supposed to happen next as opposed to what I'm trying to force to happen next.

Keeping your hopes up looking for an agent? I searched through a lot of agents before finding the treasure personified that is Kristin Nelson. I kept my hopes up by being confident in my work, knowing that if I got it in front of the right person that they would offer representation, and never allowing myself to sway from that conviction. In short, I believed in myself and my work.

Since I'm determined to have the plot synopsis for Raine book #5 to Kristin by next Friday for her input, I won't be blogging tomorrow. But I'll be back as always on Monday morning with more reader questions, or something cool I found over the weekend. And soon I plan to be posting info about a new contest.

Happy Friday!
Lisa