Okay. True to its title, this post is a little
different from the others. I did a guest post
on Cindy Carroll's "Guelph Write Now" blog.
My letter was "U" and had to pertain to writing.
So I told the story of when I cased an art
exhibit for a story.
I don't think it's in the honor code to
randomly post guest posts from other blogs
on my own blog, so below is the link if you want to be privy to my sudden could-be-illegal-if-I-acted-on-it streak.
U is for Unorthodox
Here's the beginning to pique your interest:
Hiya, there! My name is Rachael Kosinski. I’m twenty years old, tower over most girls my age, and juggle writing with going to college. I am NOT Cindy Carroll, as you may guess as you read down this post, but I WILL continue her A to Z April Challenge with the letter “U.” I didn’t have time to do a challenge of my own, and am very grateful I got the chance to jump in on someone else’s. “U” is for unorthodox. Not the opposite of a usually Greek or Russian religion—no. I mean unusual, nonconformist, or something you probably just shouldn’t do.
Which brings me to the time I cased a local art exhibit while researching my latest story....
Before we get started I’d like everyone to take a knee. Empress of Procrastination coming through.
In my defense, it’s near the end of the semester and last night I spent about two and a half hours on a Leonardo da Vinci Prezi that still isn’t even close to finished. But enough about college issues! April Round Robin time has come, and the topic—if you choose to accept it—is this: What glues you to a story start to finish? And/Or what hooks do you use to capture your readers?
Hence the title of this post. Take Antonio, a character in a book. He...is good. Antonio is good. He sings in the shower. He always pays his cell phone bill on time. He plays with puppies. He's good.
Then comes Dante. He is good, also. However, when Dante's under a lot of stress, sometimes he's not so good. Maybe he's willing to do illegal things in order to support his family. However, then he flees from police because he's afraid, but in the end he chooses the right thing.
Police chases aside, who's more interesting: Antonio, or Dante? See what I'm getting at? What glues me to a story?
And….BACKSTORY! CHARACTERS! MULTIFACETED CHARACTERS WITH EXCELLENT, PLAUSIBLE BACKSTORY THAT SUPPORTS THEIR PRESENT ACTIONS!
It sounds simple, but here's the rub: it can be the greatest, most imaginative adventure ever thought up, but if I’m sitting here hoping, praying that the main character takes a nosedive onto the nearest fatally pointy object, I’ll put that book down and never deign it with eye contact again. What’s worse, almost, is when there’s a beautifully written character you adore. Say it’s a villain. She’s creepy, and violent, and witty, but…what’s her motivation? Suddenly you're clutching your book and feeling kind of annoyed. Has she ever given a reason for why she’s doing these things? Why is she so violent? Has the main character ever done something to royally tick her off or does he just have something she needs? Is she just plain psycho?
(Usually, psycho can be great. Think Misery by Stephen King. But it has. To make. Sense. Crazy evil is such a cheap way to go about villains. *squints at whole line of authors who bow their heads in shame*)
I’ve got to love the characters. Admire them. Scorn them. UNDERSTAND THEM. A gorgeous setting and gem of a plot are fantastic too, but I’ve got to miss the characters when I close the book. In my own stories, I’ve got to want them to succeed 1,000,005%. I want people to hiss through their teeth whenever the villain does something awful…but also to tear up when they learn why she does what she does. I want the characters to be real. If there's a hero, he's got to have an ugly side and can’t always know what to do. Nobody’s valiant and kind 24/7. In the book I'm writing currently, there's a character who sort of straddles the fence between good and bad. He says the most horrible things but it's because his own life was ruined by people he considered friends. He's horrible while at the same time he can be fatherly and kind. This isn't Disney. (Though I love Disney!) One-note won't do it. I want complicated.
Oooh, fun question: what's the best written character you've read? Or, fave character? :)
Other authors figuring out how to glue books and hook readers:
The Most Nervana-esque Week of My Life (Why Birthdays are Sort of Kinda Really Conducive to Book Writing)
Ladies and gents. Lords and ladies. Cops and robbers:
Anyone just breezing by this blog might've found a heartfelt, wanderingly philosophical post yesterday about birthdays. It had lots of really deep metaphors, too. Pirates, compasses and sailing winds. That got deleted because I'm an idiot and wrote it at 1 a.m. and then thought it didn't have enough to do with writing, but now I have this!
To fill you in: I just turned twenty on Saturday. The big 2-0. "Sort of adult-y!" as I said today at Easter dinner...where my older sister gave me a look that said it was the least adult thing I could've uttered. Whatevs. Bottom line, I had this brainless assumption that I'd actually have time to write this weekend and it turned out to be a glorious lie. However, I did brainstorm and wander and have new ideas occur to me, and I had a blast in addition, so I call it a win-win.
"Rachael, noooo!" you scream at whatever wifi-friendly device you're reading this on. "You didn't get any writing done so how is that a win-win?"
I'll tell you.
The latest book idea swirling around in my subconscious has to do with forgeries, families, and Monet. This week, my Museum Studies class visited the homestead of our town's founder...who just happened to own a painting by Holman Hunt, who got into Britain's art Academy with some encouragement from John Everett Millais, who was a supremely talented art prodigy whom I'm writing a ten-page pager about for a 19th-century art history class. And here this painting was, six inches from my face: I knew this guy's back story, his early adult years; it was like finding a letter from someone you never thought you'd hear from.
I breathed like I was suffering an allergy attack and almost peed myself, and here's why this helped me with my book: I realized why my tentative characters would steal art, or forge it. It's not always about dollar signs; sometimes it's about the story. Some say a person is nothing without their reputation. It's the same for art.
Speaking of; did you know they sold socks with famous artworks on them??? Well now you do. My mom got me socks covered with Edvard Munch's The Scream (see right), Leonardo's Mona Lisa, Klimt's The Kiss, and Van Gogh's Starry Night. My feet entertained me a lot more than they should've and hey, once again I realized how much some people love art. Also, some of my family visited and they had no idea what The Scream was. It's a painting so steeped and parodied in pop culture that I presumed everyone knew it; seeing the blank look on my aunt's face made me realize that not everyone knows as much about paintings as I do.
I almost forged this weekend. I really did. Since I knew I had no time to write, I thought that maybe I could practice painting Impressionist-style like Monet did. Canvases were bought (canvases are really exciting to buy; try it. Just holding them makes you feel creative) and I stowed away notes on different types of canvases, handmade versus manufactured. My sister let me borrow her oil paints and I was all set to paint some water lilies but, alas, I got sucked up watching movies with the family. I didn't even had time to watch the DVD of Shakespeare in Love (it'll break you if you love Romeo and Juliet or Shakespeare in general. If you haven't seen it, it's on Netflix. Go. Sign in and watch now.) that my mom got me! The Penguins of Madagascar, The Imitation Game, Sons of Anarchy = not a lot of time to practice art forging. The Imitation Game, plus my mom explaining some things, did give me ideas for my art forger character, so that was a bonus.
You know that saying, "If you want to write, you must read"? I think Stephen King said it, or--something like it, anyway. I bough myself A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab which I've been spazzing for since I found it on GoodReads, and my mom surprised me with Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, and both sound interesting so I have a good hoarded stock for when I finish The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale. It's like I have back up batteries or something for when my imagination's running on fumes.
TA-DA! Another book I bought was this, The Emotion Thesaurus, which I discovered in Writer's Digest. I feel like I use the phrases "quirked a smile," "furrowed his brow" and a few others about 60,000 times in a story, so now if I get really stuck I can just consult this handy dandy gathering of pages! Now I'm realizing I left my pocket thesaurus at home on my desk. Dang.
Yet, college is getting down to crunch time. I have a 25-pg paper on Leonardo's The Adoration of the Magi (a painting he never finished) and a 10-pg paper on Millais due basically within the next month, along with a 40-min presentation and god knows how many more projects, finals and tests, so Monet Evanescence (the working title of a book that I haven't even written a page of) will most likely be camping out in my brain for a little while longer.
Maybe I'll use Monet to relax; that's usually how writing goes. I make some coffee and escape into another world for a few hours.
Obviously, my weekend did not give me any urges to escape. My fifteen-year-old dog and I spent some severely needed quality time and my little sister threatened to "squish those grapes in your hand and make you wish you were never born!" when I took her can of clam chowder to make because it was Lent. We exchange threats all the time, so I was busy planning my responses instead of typing.
And sometimes I think that's okay. :)
(Birthday card to the left courtesy of my little sister. We watched Big Hero 6 when I came home for Spring Break and couldn't get over how wonderful Baymax was.)
Before I doff my cap and say adieu, let's talk: birthdays, brainstorming, writing. How's everyone doing? Any fun breakthroughs? Did you scorn writing to take a nap and it was a Grade-A snooze so you feel no guilt whatsoever! Dímelo!
Official website of Rachael Kosinski, 24.
Pen for hire.