Friday, May 25, 2007

Coffee Break 19 - and Post 300

When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.

Ernest Hemingway
It's my 300th blog post today. I am sure that calls for some kind of celebration! Make mine an iced mocha, then...

I was trying to explain recently what the Novel Race was and I began by talking about the Coffee Break - and then realised that actually, this session is more like WeightWatchers in reverse, as we declare our weekly GAINS. Of course, unlike WeightWatchers, there's no objective weigh-in, but we're all far too honest to fib, aren't we?

The bookshelf rearrangement is a work-in-progress, mainly hampered by my discovery of books I haven't read in ages. Have been re-reading Mavis Cheek's Janice Gentle Gets Sexy, which is tremendous fun for anyone with writing aspirations or an interest in publishing, and has an interesting structure.

Now, characters! Liz asked whether I have a set questionnaire for interrogating my characters and I have just been developing one. Some of the questions come from my current fave writing book, the Billy Mernit Writing the Romantic Comedy one, which I've blogged about before. And some I just made up. But here are a few of the questions:

Objective view of appearance/lookalike:
Speech tics/tone:
Five words/phrases:
Describe yourself physically (are you attractive? In what way? What do you wear?)
What’s your philosophy? (attitude towards life, belief system)
Talk about family (parents, grandparents, kids, siblings)
How do you respond emotionally to crisis?
What are your quirks and contradictions?
Do you have any special talents?
What do you need? (conscious/unconscious)
What do you fear most?
What are the best and worst things you’ve ever done?
What do you need to learn? What is your journey? (the character may not know – author must)

It's still a work-in-progress, in that some of the questions seem a touch repetitive to me. I write it in the 1st person, which also helps me to get the voice. I had coffee with a writer friend yesterday who said he thinks it sounds exhausting and too much like hard work, but as I am writing two books a year, I feel it'll save me some time. I particularly want to work through the areas of conflict with the other characters at an early stage, to up the drama: so one person may respond to a crisis in a way that puts them in direct opposition to another, for example.

What do you do to develop your characters? Or do you prefer to get to know them as you go along?

Oh, we have two new novel racers, David (or DOT) and Rowan (who has set up a brand new blog to join us). Do welcome them to the club!

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Blogger liz fenwick said...

Welcome to Dave and Rowan! Please send me your profiles so I can continue to high light the racers. Thos of you who haven't yet. Please do as it has been great!

Thanks for posting your questionnaire Kate. I mind map each on of my characters but its probably too random. I think I need to refine it a bit more.

My rewrite of August is progressing well and I am learning so much as this fifth rewrite is under way :-)

BTW congrats on 300 posts. Also just started The self Preservation Society yesterday and I love it. Also everyone on the school was asking me about it and touching it! The bumpy bits works :-)

10:04 am  
Anonymous Rowan Coleman said...

Hello everyone very pleased to be joing the race and am setting up a blog even as we speak! For the record, I've had six five books published with Arrow the last of which was THE BABY GROUP and two books of a six book series about child star RUBY PARKER for teens published so far with Harper Collins. The third (already ready written thank goodness) RUBY PARKER HOLLYWOOD STAR Is out in October. I'm currenly working on my sixthadult novel for Arrow. Yikes.

10:24 am  
Blogger Helen said...

Morning all. Congrats Kate on your 300th post and new book. I might well go to the book shop this afternoon...

Nearly at the 70,000 mark which I am pleased about. Just a few thousand or so to go. Maybe I'll get there today. Tomorrow I am taking part in a one day creative writing course with Sophie King, which I am looking forward to, but means I probably won't get much writing done on novel this weekend.

10:34 am  
Blogger Rowan Coleman said...

Hooray I set up a blog page Hope you cna line me now.

10:51 am  
Blogger Rowan Coleman said...

ps sorry I can't type or spell today. It's a common problem I have!

10:53 am  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Welcome Rowan; welcome David; I will update my sidebar soon, honest. Happy 300th blog post Kate! I have a form thing for a character profile that I use when I feel like it, it's about five pages long, I'll email you a copy in case you want to pinch bits, if anyone else wants a copy please drop me an email at zinniacyclamen AT hotmail DOT com. Writing it in the first person sounds like a very good plan, I'll try that next time.

I haven't written any words this week but I've now had all the feedback on my second draft and I've had approximately 100000000 ideas as a result. I should be able to start on the actual revision this afternoon, and I have a fairly free weekend and next week isn't very busy so I'm hoping to have some real progress to report next week.

12:05 pm  
Blogger Portia Da Costa said...

Thanks for posting that list of questions, Kate! I'm having trouble connecting with the characters in my WIP, and I need to get to know them better.

Am going to ask them your questions!



12:29 pm  
Blogger ChrisH said...

Welcome fellow new racers! I'm feeling pleased with myself as Novel 2 has taken off this week. And, rather pertinent to Kate's post, it was because one of my characters suddenly turned into someone I believed in. I do think the key is really getting to know your characters first so using whatever tool works for you; questionnaire, long walks, magazine cuttings etc will save you time in the long run.

12:37 pm  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

Welcome to the race, DOT and Rowan. I'll have you up on the racer list within a couple hours. (Barring any unforeseen difficulties.)

Congrats on the 300th post!

I've managed to get some writing done this week - nothing to jump up and down about, but progress nonetheless. I got a very nice rejection from a publisher this week, and a couple of standard form rejections for a different book. This weekend (a holiday weekend in the states) will be devoted to editing book 3, so it can join in the query fun, too.

:Lifts mug: Here's to a great and productive week ahead for everyone.

2:29 pm  
Blogger Nichola said...

Welcome to our new racers!

I've had a productive week. Just over 15k - here's hoping I'll get this draft finished. I'm aiming for a short book but if it goes over, so be it. But I seem to work better with a deadline or a target.

And the week's not over yet so I may very well hit 20k by Monday!

Now off to update my sidebar.

5:32 pm  
Blogger Lucy Diamond said...

Hello to the new racers (and the rest of you, of course)! I am actually leaving the race (and blogworld) for a short while - partly the house move but also because I am having a panic about the new novel being rubbish!
Hopefully when I return I will be calm and serene in my new house with all my plot worries perfectly resolved...
Well, you never know. I AM an optimist...

7:50 pm  
Blogger Lesley Cookman said...

Welcome to the new racers. I'm pretty lazy about keeping up with everyone, but did actually meet some of us last Saturday.

I've got to 66646, 20000 to go, roughly, and a deadline of mid-June. Sigh. Never mind, second book came out this week. Two people have actually bought it...

9:21 am  
Blogger Jen said...

Whoops a daisy, late as usual. Nothing much to report on the writing front but, as always, I've had lots of thoughts! Am feeling more fired up than I have done for a while though which is good.

Am going to have a novel-planning afternoon and see how that affects my oomph. Hadn't thought of writing the charcters' profiles in first person - it has really made me quite excited! Yeah, yeah, must get out more. Have also decided to post the first few thousand words of the WIP on a separate page on my blog... I'd never have had the confidence to do that a few months ago and, truly, it's down to the support of the Novel Racers.

Hi to Rowan and David... hope this all inspires you as much as it does me.

Kate, I groped your book in Tunbridge Wells this morning - will be splurging my pennies after pay day! And, equally exciting, Lucy Diamond's novel is advertised in a MASSIVE illuminated billboardy thing in T Wells shopping centre. I felt SO proud!

12:35 pm  
Blogger JJ said...

I'm never quite sure if I'm late, whether I should leave a message, but here goes.

Brilliant to hear you've made 300 posts, Kate. Wow. I'm in awe.

Well, I'm looking forward to seeing the bookcase when it's finished. Colour coding: I wonder if husband would let me do that.

I've written two short stories (not finished) and one scene for the book... not fab, but not bad for me.

Welcome to the new racers. I will come by and say hello in the coming days.

All the best


12:36 pm  
Blogger Julia Buckley said...

Wow Kate, you're on fire. Huge congrats.

5:51 pm  
Blogger Rowan Coleman said...

please will someone be ever so kind and tell me how the word count thingy works. I can't make it work! God, I feel inadequate.

5:53 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

Morning and welcome to the new racers.

I am back into the race and onto the second draft. It is hoepfully (fingers crossed) coming together.

I was thinking about the character outlines for In Search of Adam, I went a step further and did them for every member of the main character's street. They all seep out of the story.

I would like to invite the novel racers to the launch of In Search of Adam. The details are on my blog - but if anyone would like a private invitation they can email me at

Congrats on the 300th post.

8:46 am  

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