A Season for Firefliesby Rebecca Maizel
Welcome to Day #10 of the A Season for Fireflies Blog Tour!
Today is the last stop of the tour! Check out the other blogs below for more chances to win!
Fantasy vs Contemporary
How to Let Your Character Dictate the Story – No Matter the Genre
by Rebecca Maizel
Back in 2009 (how could it have been that long ago!!!!) when I started writing Infinite Days, I was compelled by my main character, Lenah, and her voice. Infinite Days is a book about Lenah, a 592 year old vampire, who gets a second chance to be human. I was enthralled by this character who had seen so much darkness, reveled in it in fact, who had to relearn what it means to be human. She experiences love, compassion, envy, and more. When I first heard Lenah’s voice (I am going to sound nuts) she came to my mind quite clearly – I could literally channel her and I understood how she would speak.
She’s quite tortured, you see. That’s Lenah. That sentence you just read – that’s how she would talk. I would never say “quite tortured.” Anyway (I’ll move on before you call the looney bin), she had a clear conflict. At the time I had never read a single Twilight book and was unaware of the paranormal explosion in the YA fiction world. I wrote Infinite Days in eight months. From Lenah’s conflict came the story. Her emotional needs drove the conflict, not the other way around. I didn’t create the supernatural rules/lore for the world first, but with what the character needed. As a vampire, Lenah wanted to be human more than anything. So, to push her to want it even more, I took away any aspect that was remotely human from the vampire experience: the more she aged the less she would be able to experience the sense of touch, the only sense of taste was blood and flesh, and the ability to love would wane over time. So much of our human experience is being out in the world with other humans. As a vampire, Lenah couldn’t be out in the daylight. After a while, that kind of isolation can drive you insane.
As I explain the process here, I think it probably seems like I was totally aware of all of this but I wasn’t. I’m a big believer in Robert Olen Butler’s “white hot of the subconscious.” Olen Butler says in his book From Where You Dream: “Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you. Does this make sense? Do you understand what I’m saying? If you want to think your way into your fiction, if you think you can analyze your way into a work of art, we’re going to be totally at odds philosophically about what art is and where it comes from.”
I love that.
When I started writing a contemporary story, Between Us & The Moon, I was already writing and drafting from a character-driven place, yet the rules had to change. In Lenah’s stories, anything was possible, which made my choices huge. But again, I narrowed the scope of those choices to anything that would push my character out of her comfort zone and inhibit her from getting what she wanted. So the choices got more specific.
I don’t think genre should dictate the character’s emotions. As I hinted at above, a contemporary world in some ways narrows the scope of the character’s problems even further because of the sheer limitations as to what that character can and can’t do. A way to narrow that scope even further is to think about what your character needs. One of the best ways I can say to bridge the world of writing fantasy and contemporary is in the arc of the character.
Try out the following 3 questions:
- Who is your character at the end of the story who he/she was not at the beginning?
- How did he/she get there? They have to earn that change. Without change you have no story.
- What does he/she want? Well, if he/she is a supernatural creature, does the world in which the live making it harder for them to get what he/she wants? If your answer here is something abstract like: she wants happiness! That’s not specific. That’s abstract. What is something specific that your character can do in the story that represents “wanting happiness?”
A captivating contemporary novel about first love, second chances, and the power of memory, by the author of Between Us and the Moon, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Katie Cotugno.One year ago, Penny Berne was the star of her high school’s theater department, surrounded by a group of misfits and falling in love with her best friend, Wes.Now her old friends won’t talk to her, her first love, Wes, ignores her, and her best friend is the most popular girl in school. Penny is revered—and hated.But when a near-fatal lightning strike leaves Penny with no memory of the past year, or how she went from drama nerd to queen bee, Penny realizes she may have the second chance she never expected.…
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