Monday, May 10, 2010

Character Sheets and Waiting: Week Three

Remember those marbled Composition notebooks we used as kids?

You know the ones. Teachers used to make us write 'Journals' during High School. Half way through my junior year I got a pass on writing in mine--as my homeroom teacher Dr. Saltzman said, "I just don't need to know the details of your exploits. I weep for those girls' parents."

But I digress.

I have one of those old-style notebooks for EACH of the main characters for the series.

Part of the fun in making up new stories is character development. I'll give you an example.

Symon Bryson, my lead character and whose point of view the series is told from, lost his parents when he was younger. In fact, they were killed right in front of him. But his character doesn't remember anything from that horrible incident.

Ah. But I do. I've written that entire sequence of events. And what happened during that time will have a profound impact on Symon's psyche in the first few books.

But more then hidden scenes that allow me to play 'I know something you don't know,' the character books keep me from forgetting details.

For example. Symon's old girl friend, Janice, is part Narragansett Indian. Symon's best friend, Aaron, wears glasses. Father Bill Duncan, another friend of Symon's, has a dark secret (to be explored in the second book).

I could go on, but that might spoil the fun. Besides, I reserve the right to change things around in the back histories willy-nilly should the story dictate such a change or if I'm in a bad mood that day.

As long as it's consistent with the story (or, hopefully stories) as presented to the reader.

Consistency. That's also the key to the business of writing.

I was perusing the blog of the agent I submitted my work too, and noticed that she has only gotten up to submissions dated to the 12th of April. Well, that means mine hasn't been read as of yet as I submitted electronically on the 22nd.

You might be wondering what takes so long. And if it weren't for the updates posted on this particular agents blog, I'd be wondering the same thing. And pulling out my hair more then I am.

She receives HUNDREDS of queries. Each one is (or SHOULD be) the same:

1) Professional Query Letter
2) Summary of the book
3) First five pages

Now, assume it takes five minutes for each query. And assume 400 queries a week (which is actually a low number). That's 2000 minutes (or 33.3 hours) a week. That's just READING queries.

This doesn't take into consideration existing clients' needs, publishers, editors, writing conferences and all the other things an agent does during the work week.

So what does this have to do with anything?


The character sheets I've developed allow me to keep the characters consistent from chapter to chapter and from book to book.

The agent's blog updates provide me (as a potential client) with consistent business facts that work across any agency and updates on her progress. Consistent following of the guidelines will get you noticed faster.

Bottom line is consistency leads to better writing for me. My characters are individuals who will develop and grow. The only way that happens is if I keep the core facts straight. The consistent blog reporting by professionals helps me to understand the business of writing. Not to mention keeping me informed as to where my submission is in the queue.

Which keeps the hair on my head consistently in place.


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