20 February 2009

Contracts, characters and conflict

I sent off my contract this morning which was most exciting. I have no publication date or title or the slightest idea if my revisions were any good, but not to worry, there have been distractions aplenty.

Not only is Mills & Boon going militant, up in arms about Warrington Station's kissing ban, but Feel the Heat runner-up Jackie Ashenden has been running a fascinating series of posts about external v. internal conflict, stereotypes and editorial feedback.

Which got me thinking about how I go about setting up a story. Messily and randomly, generally; my thought processes are a work in progress in themselves.

But take my latest WIP which is still by-and-large plotless. I recently read an article about how one of the few industries to actually do well out of recession is PR. So I thought, OK, my heroine will work in PR. A good excuse to write glam launch party scenes, if nothing else. So what sort of person would work in PR? Extrovert, good at socialising, confident, a people person. Fine.

Now, let's make her the owner of her own PR agency. She's obviously driven, successful and independent, but why? Well, what if she comes from an over-achieving family where great things are expected from all family members and failure is not an option? And what if (given the brilliance of her siblings) she's not entirely convinced that she's up to the job? How would that manifest itself? And what if she's rubbish with men? As she's been brought up to pursue success and avoid failure, she'd probably steer well clear.

So what would be her greatest fears? Failure would be one, I guess. And that someone will see through her. Oh, and (to a lesser extent) meeting an irresistible man who's not much of a people person and is a bit of a loner. For her inner conflicts to really come into their own, then, she needs to fail at something. Big time. And she needs to meet the hero, who naturally is not much of a people person, is a bit of a loner but has an uncanny ability to see through people.

And then we start on the hero. If he's going to be a loner then he'll rely on himself and he'll have a loner-y kind of job. But why would he be a loner? Why wouldn't he rely on anyone else? And why is he good at seeing through people? And what would he really really hate to happen?

Crikey, this sort of analysis could go on for ever. With any luck the answers will lead me to the plot, although I'm rather hoping my characters will do it for me. The only thing I do know is that whatever does happen, it'll make them confront their fears and they'll hate it.

I think.

And as if that wasn't enough, all this needs to happen against a backdrop of sparkling repartee and smouldering looks. I suddenly feel quite weak.

16 comments:

Jackie Ashenden said...

Lucy, such a great post! And thanks for the blog shout-out. I was planning a simliar-ish post today - do you mind if I reference yours too? Your 'why' questions are fantastic.

I'm having to do this myself. I got my revisions this morning and providing the heroine with a stronger conflict is the main problem. I love your conflicts though! That's what they say, think about your characters' biggest fears and then make it happen. Torture them I say!

Rachael Johns said...

Ditto what Jackie said... there is so much in your post to think about and learn from. I think the WHY is the hardest part about writing and therefore obviously the hardest thing to get right. Or that could just be because I just got a rejection on not having strong enough 'whys.' :)

I too am now trying to think long and hard (what a cliche) about the conflicts in the next wip!! WHY? WHY? WHY? Think I might get a big poster made with this one word in bright red in the middle.

Anyone else want one??

Lucy said...

Jackie, do - so exciting to receive your revisions!!

Rach, yeah, the whys and the whatifs are key, aren't they? In the end though, you can go insane. The heroine likes the colour blue. Why? Duh *head thudding on desk*.

Lucy said...

BTW (((hugs))) for the rejection, Rach. If you've got any of those 'WHY?' posters spare would love one.

Suzanne said...

Great post, Lucy.

I could actually see your characters coming to life. Completely fascinating and informative to see how you deal with this process.

Very exiting about the contract.
:-)

Lucy King said...

Would a brief conflict analysis of my Chapter 1 be helpful?

I wouldn't want to bore the pants off people but if anyone's interested, I could take a look and see if I can identify what I think might be conflict points.

(Can you tell I've set myself a weekend target of 5000 words and am not getting very far with it?! )

Lorraine said...

At the risk of detracting you from your next novel I would love to hear more from you about conflict. Would you agree that the 'whys' seem to boil down to that?

So many of us seem to be preoccupied with the subject at the moment!

I think the conflict was evident in your comp. chapter and obviously in your synopsis (and it was clearly internal).

I'm interested in the whole question of how much to initially reveal though - the motivations have to make sense but you want to hold back so you can slowly unravel...

mulberry said...

LOL! Fab post Lucy- I'm really enjoying the insight into your plotting.
Rachael- I need one of the "Why?" posters too!

Janet said...

The whole question of how much to initially reveal in chapter one puzzles me, too. I'd love your thoughts on this and a conflict analysis of your chapter one would be great.
Thanks so much for doing this.

Suzanne said...

I'd also love to see a conflict analysis of your first chapter, please.

Jackie Ashenden said...

Post it, Lucy! I'm always interested to see how other writer's deal with this too.

Rachael Johns said...

Thanks for the hugs Lucy and I WOULD love to see a conflict analysis of your first chap!!

Lucy King said...

Okey dokey, will give it a shot. Can't pretend it'll be a particularly academic study, but maybe that's not such a bad thing...

Lucy King said...

Lorraine, in answer to your question about the whys boiling down to the conflict, I think it depends where you start. Which isn't really very helpful is it?

In the case of my PR heroine, as I've started with her character attributes I might see it the other way round. And I can manipulate the conflict to a degree. For example, she comes from an overachieving family. Fine. If she's happy with that great. No conflict. But what if she feels that she's not really up to it? That would certainly throw up some inner turmoil. She'd be constantly worried that everything about to come crashing down around her. Maybe. I think...

Lorraine said...

Thanks Lucy,

I don't suppose it matters which way round you start (character or conflict), just as long as you've thought about it before you write and aren't getting too caught up in the external plot...

Lucy King said...

Ah, yes that 'thinking before you write' is something I need to work on. I tend to just plough straight in and waste an awful lot of time!