Thursday, January 20, 2011

Writing Meme...Because I have Blogger's Block

I've been saving this meme from Mesmered for a rainy this case, a very snowy day...when I couldn't think of something to blog about. It's a long'un, so I'm posting the first 10 questions today--please feel free to swipe and play with this one. Great questions, it was fun to think about! These are mainly about characters--sorry if it's a touch confusing, I didn't take much time to give background in some cases...but isn't that what a meme is for, just answering and pondering? Have fun!

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project that you’ve worked with and why. I don’t think I can pick…Check the “Writing Endeavors” page for current and past projects. Maybe my favorite project wasn’t a project at all, but the process of producing, regularly—I’m happiest when I’m writing a lot. And crankiest when I’m not doing much writing. Some of my favorite writing experience comes from when I was a teenager and wrote nearly daily, nothing of much substance, but explorations of words. I need to recapture that enjoyment, I think!

2. How many characters do you have? Eeeep, like asking how many thoughts I have a day…and now I sound like a crazy person. Instead, a favorite character from each of my major projects: Marjory, the whipsmart plantation coquette with the eighteenth-century wit I wish I had from Linden Hall; Nate Bennett, the nearly-broken WWII veteran with wavy hair and a thin jaw from December; Esther from my latest beginning, who is almost too patient, especially with her kooky sister-in-law (who insists on becoming a dime-a-dance girl…honestly…).

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)? I make them sit there until they tell me. Sometimes we have to take a walk or get a glass of wine in them, or a few dozen pages. But they eventually yield. In all honesty, writing historicals, I do tend to do a bit of research into common names of any given time period. But ultimately it’s the name that fits the character, especially aesthetically. It has to sound right, roll around the mouth the right way.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters! Well, I wrote a story about a maladjusted tree with pierced ears when I was six or so. Illustrated and everything. Clearly I had an overactive and inexplicable imagination.

5. Where are you most comfortable writing? Anywhere I can set the laptop—I seem to like windows. And a hot drink. But you’ll most commonly find me in my “study” (aka the corner of the great room), with a chair pulled up to the kitchen table, or escaping to a coffee shop haunt. At what time of day? Anytime, really. I love weekend mornings, though. Weekend mornings with some good coffee and uninterrupted writing time is my favorite. Computer or good ol’ pen and paper? Computer. I’ve pretty much lost the ability to write longhand. I do like playing with pens and paper, but nothing much gets done except strange esoteric sketches and illegible scrawlings.

6. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? You know, I don’t. Not when I write. When I’m thinking, sure. When I’m zoning out, working out on the elliptical, fermenting ideas, of course. When I’m editing, most definitely—and then it’s a mess of Satie and Tallis and other complicated but subdued music. Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters? Anna from Linden Hall, who a delicate little bird, was Loreena McKennitt’s Breton Carol—sad and wistful but warm at its core. Gloria from December was really Camille Saint-Saens The Swan, but she covered it up by being brassy Ethel Merman show tunes. Poor Nate Bennett—he was most certainly Coltrane or Miles Davis, but they weren’t around yet for him. And Marjory…defies melody.

7. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read? Historical on both accounts. I’m a bit of a one-trick pony.

8. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them. They tend to come to me—mostly from places and historical inspiration, I think. I see a grand plantation home and think “who would have lived here…no really, who?” or a picture of a 1930s dime-a-dance hall and think about the girls who worked there. Then we chat a bit…and I write them out. They grow and flesh out until I know them as though they were real people; often I have to get a few chapters down to really have the feel of them (then we revise those chapters). I don’t tend to do any character-building exercises—questionnaires or quizzes or whatnot—except for fun…or to procrastinate. I tend to be, for better or worse, pretty loosey-goosey and organic about developing characters.

9. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts! Well, shoot. I knocked one of them up accidentally…I made one sit through the siege of Charleston and get bombarded while another had to march through swampland to join the siege…I stuck one in a plane crash (even made him pilot the plane…how cruel am I?). But I think the weirdest was sticking Gloria from December, who is a small-time stage dancer and singer, in a theater fire. Twice.

10. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite? Gloria from December—she was so snappy. I didn’t have to think about what she’d say next—she just smacked it on the paper before I’d really caught on. And she was funny and a little mean and terribly ambitious, but not quite smart enough to be cautious about those near-fatal flaws. She was a blast. Her father, however—writing a far-side of middle-aged man was difficult, being neither male nor over thirty. We got by, though, he was very patient with my attempts to get him down.


Carrie C said...

Trees with pierced ears?! I love it! What was the story? My first story was written at about the same age, about a teddy bear who stopped a war with ketchup. Not as cool as punk trees!

Hema P. said...

You know, I love learning tidbits about my friends -- those from real life or blogland. This meme is a great idea! Learning about the author via her writing habits and the quirks of her characters :).

It was nice to meet you all over again, Rowenna!

Rowenna said...

Carrie--yes, I was an odd child. Ketchup as a cease-fire device--love it!

Hema--thanks! I love reading these--and writing responses, too. Feel free to steal this and write it out!