A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blog Chain - Different Characters And Exercises

Before I launch into the blog chain question, I want to make sure everyone knows about the contest in progress. If you haven't stopped by this post, you need to. The contest is fun and the prizes are awesome (care of Elana Johnson, writer extraordinaire). Get your butt over there and enter today. I'll wait.

Okay, now that the housekeeping is out of the way, let's get to it. The amazing and talented Sandra has started off this round with two questions. She gave the option to answer one or the other, but I'll do em both. Sandra asks:

Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?


Have you ever written writing exercises? If so, did you find the experience useful? What type of writing exercises were they, and did you do them on your own or as part of a writing class or workshop?

My first attempt at a novel (before I really knew anything at all) had a young Hispanic woman as one of the main characters. Other than being married to a wonderful Hispanic woman who is eternally young (that's right baby, I won't put your age in here. You're 29 and holding, right?), I had no background to pull from. This woman is also homeless, which is another aspect of life I thankfully have not had to deal with. Did I panic? I think not.

I searched around and was able to interview a woman who was working at a place that assists homeless women. She was a young Hispanic woman who had been homeless herself at one point. I wish I could relate her story to the world because it was so amazing. I will say however, that she had a profound effect on how I viewed my main character from that point on. Although I have put the story on hold for now, I will go back to it someday when my writing is significantly improved.

As for the second question, I am currently embroiled in a short story writing workshop. Although we're only a few classes in, we've already been doing some really cool exercises. The first one involved writing an entire story in only 550 words. That was pure torture for me. I guess I'm a masochist though; I didn't quit the class and I can actually say I'm glad I worked through the exercise.

We've also done writing-on-demand, where the teacher gives us a sentence and tell us to go from there. We're dealing with flash fiction currently, something I've never worked on before. Oh, and of course we're writing our own short story, to be workshopped by the group. Did I mention that I get the honor of turning mine in first tomorrow? Can you say stressed out? I'm more than a little nervous.

In any event, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Michelle Hickman is following me tomorrow, so make sure you stop by and read what she has to say.


Mandy said...

Good for you Eric for sticking with the short story class! The short is my nemisis! I'm just too wordy to get my point across and my "shorts" always end up growing to monsterous proportions. I admire your researching as well! What better way to get into your character's head than to really talk to someone that embodies what you want to portray through your writing! Great post!

Michelle H. said...

Keep to those classes. I bet you'll get to the head of the class soon. That was great researching. You went above and beyond for your character. I really enjoyed this post!

Matthew Rush said...

Ooh, props to you for having the courage to go first Eric! Sounds like a fun but scary class.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

My husband is Filipino, so I drew from his background when I created some of my Filipino characters. I hope they're not too similar to his family!

Good luck with the workshop tomorrow! It's always hard to get critted in front of a group, but it can be a really useful experience. I hope you get helpful feedback.

Robin McCormack said...

I would love to do more writing exercises but really don't have the time for them. I guess you could say my blog and class papers are exercise enough for me. I can't wait to finish my Liberal Arts degree so I can take some writing classes. I look forward to some interesting, challenging writing exercises.

All my characters have been different from me. I've written a handicapped character, a former priest, old foggie. Research - taking people from life and exaggerating them. My main character in 1st wip which is in the process of being rewritten was injured under nefarious circumstances which has really impacted the story. Makes it interesting.

Eric said...

Mandy - I am right there with you. Trying to boil the story down within these limited pages has been a true challenge. But I am glad I'm working on it. It's still fun.

Michelle - Thanks. I haven't done as much research like I did in that first one, but I have to say it was really cool calling somebody and explaining that I was a writer doing research. Plus her story was awesome to hear.

Matthew - Well, I figured it would be better just to get it over with. I could have chosen the only other slot, which was later. But I'm now glad I did what I did. For better or worse, my draft is done.

Sandra - Thanks. This will definitely be interesting. I've never been in a critique group before. I'm scared and yet looking forward to it.

Robin - I can completely sympathize with you. I am so glad I have graduated so that I can take whatever class I want now. Your character types sound very interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

nomadshan said...

Sounds like you found the perfect person to talk to to get a feel for your character's life view. I know when my husband reads my work and it has a male character, I always ask him if a boy/man would think that way, or say those things.

Your short story workshop sounds cool!

Christine Fonseca said...

Great post Eric!

Cole Gibsen said...

I love real life examples to draw from. I think it's the small details you find there that help a story really come to life.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Ooh, your short story class sounds really great. I love taking any kind of creative type classes - I find that it is really inspiring and motivating.

B.J. Anderson said...

That's really cool that you interviewed someone to try and gain better perspective. I think interviews are so beneficial. And good luck on your short story!

Sarah Bromley said...

I think it's great when you can find people in real life for characters--maybe not the whole person, but at least how they look or part of their "story." The short story class sounds really interesting. I just never feel like I can go deep enough with short fiction and think it's an art unto itself.