Monday, June 25, 2012

Rooting For Katniss/Your MC

In his workshop at the Storymakers Conference, John Brown spoke about lessons learned from The Hunger Games. He said the first pages of the popular book add layers of existing hardship. Elana Johnson would call it portraying the normal world in which the main character lives. Brown says the first two paragraphs didn’t particularly interest him. The third mentions a scrappy cat. That snagged his interest. Attracting interest is fundamental but the main character must have likability. Is your MC likable?

To be likable, the character needs to be interesting, basically good, and an active participant with a chance to succeed. Likeability of a character that has a problem naturally leads to us rooting for him/her. Likability + Problem → Rooting. We rooted for Katniss but held sympathy for Rue. Katniss had a goal, she took action, she had a chance to win her goal. We hoped for Rue to stick around but knew she couldn’t win. We could hope and fear about the possibilities for Katniss. Rooting for the MC drives the story.

Another lesson he shared conflicts to some degree with other ideas floating around, including recent ones on this blog from Save The Cat. John Brown says not to fit your story into a formula or percentage. As in The Hunger Games and many other books he analyzed, the problem is presented early and quickly, the struggle to overcome is most of the book, and the resolution quickly wraps up. There are no three acts of 25% presenting the problem, 50% struggle, and 25% resolution or something equally structured. His analysis follows more like a 8-9% problem, 79 or 80% struggle, and 8-10% resolution. I like this; it seems simple and rings true. I’m going to do my own examination because I don't want to settle for it out of convenience.

Okay, there are two lessons here for you to consider. The first shows how to drive the story by rooting for a likable MC and the second simplifies the structure into problem, struggle, and resolution with struggle making up the biggest chunk and the other two taking just what they need to get the job done. What have you found in your reading analyses?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Men In Our Lives, er Books

In honor of Father's Day, I've got men on my mind. (No stray thoughts here please.) I'll be wrapping up my Book of Mormon fiction soon and want to dive back into my contemporary YA, Perception. This is the first time my MC is in first person and male. I hope I'm getting him right. To do that, I picture what my youngest son or one of his friends would do. It's a bit like Tootsie learning to act like a woman. (Great movie, BTW.) As much as I love my husband, I can't picture an MC patterned after him, yet I might use his male perspective once in a while. This is my one hundredth post and I am dedicating it to the men in my life and men everywhere. It would be great to see a few new male followers on my blog this week. Go ahead. Make my day.
What would we do without male characters?
Here are some fun questions to ponder and a few comments. If one strikes you, I'd love to hear from you. Thank you and cheers to the men in our lives.
1. Are there more stories with a female main character (MC) or a male?
This might depend on what you like to read. Most stories include both but one typically dominates as MC. I've heard that women make up the largest percentage of readers, but then women can relate to both male and female MCs. You men out there, are you the same way?
2. Do you prefer a male or female MC?
3. Why are the male MCs always young and handsome?
Sex appeal is probably #1. Same for hot guys in movies, I guess. That's not to say there aren't other reasons.
4. Are most of the villains male? Why or why not?
The Seventh City has a tall, slender high priest as the villain. His name is Japethihah but my critique group has nicknamed him Jafar (from Aladdin).
5. Who are your favorite male MCs/leads and villains?
Harry Potter holds that likability factor for me and a lot of people.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Saving the Best for Last

Presenting the finale. Ta-da!
 A couple weeks ago we “worried” over the first scene; today we’re skipping to the Finale. You might call it the Climax after rising action or some other name. I’m using notes from Elana Johnson’s workshop, which is based on Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. My final revisions for The Seventh City currently concern a few finale changes. If I can pull all five of these off, it will be awesome! My original ending didn’t quite measure up. At least I recognize that and can fix it. Let’s see what Elana/Blake say I need to have:

1. Gathering the team—Make it right for friends to want to help the hero.
2. Execute the Plan—It should sound doable even if it is doubtful. (The plan will fail.)
3. High tower surprise—The bad guys make the plan fail by showing up to ruin it. There’s is usually a surprise appearance.
4. The hero must dig down deep to find a new plan, a new way to get out of the bad situation.
5. Execute the new, unexpected plan that hinges upon the hero’s shoulders, only he/she can make it work. This shows something in the character that the reader hoped existed but has now emerged.
Okay. That’s my goal this week. Send your creative aura or muse my way, would you please?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making Character Connections

I recently moved to another state. Maybe you’ve done that before and we have a low-level connection already going but you’re probably thinking, So what? What if I added that I might only be here for six months; I don’t really know. A slight curiosity causes you to wonder why. Now I’m going to add the fact that this temp job could be extended or my husband and I could be back to seeking employment in a bad economy where we still have a mortgage to pay and we’re missing the children and grandchildren we left behind. Starting to feel for me? Worry is a great connecting factor. As mentioned in my post two weeks ago, the faster we worry, the faster we bond.

I am the main character in my new adventure. What makes people care about me or I them in this temporary situation? I asked myself this after attending a social with a group of people who didn’t know me. Some made a connection with me right away and others didn’t. I analyzed the methods and related it to getting to know the main character in a novel.
Observations. Something is different or out of place that we notice and become curious about. Who is the guy in that fantastic jacket? We move in for a closer look.
Conversation. No matter who initiated it, conversation was the typical way to begin a connection. Interesting information is exchanged a little at a time from all participants, not lopsided info dumps.
Interests. Connections were strengthened when we hit upon one or more common interests. We feel both comfortable enough to continue the pleasantries.
Surprises. If one of us shared something that the other knew little about but found fascinating, the connection propelled beyond the common interest into stimulating the intellect. “You’ve been to Japan? I’ve never wanted to go there but you might just change my mind.”
Personalities. The “chemistry” of person’s aura, shared or opposite, that we find alluring or intriguing. This can mean romantic or platonic interest. It can be hard to show.
Worry or Danger. We’ve already touched on this. Appeal to the human desire to help.

What have you used to aid a reader in connecting to a character? Was it from real life inspiration?