Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Character Sketches and Melodies

While I had grand plans of making great gains with my writing last week while on vacation, unfortunately sketchy internet connection resulted in a Teachers Write! snafu.  Intermittent internet is infuriatingly inconvenient!  Hah!  But I'm back! 

This week's work is exciting to me for many reasons.  First, I know that I am a visual learner, and I love to doodle and draw.  I remember walking two blocks to a neighborhood art class as a kid, and taking out my sketch pad conjures up loads of fuzzy feelings for me.  Next, I also love music.  I have a very eclectic musical taste, and I had a blast using our family iTunes library yesterday to put a soundtrack to my characters' stories and voices.   Third, I am just excited to be back to my writing work!  (Is that a good third reason?  I think so.)  Anyway, I combined the Monday mini-lesson with Tuesday's quick-write, and I think that the result is pretty exciting (for me, anyway- I feel momentum)!!

So, here we go:
From Kate Messner's blog:  Monday's Mini-is courtesy of Ruth McNally Barshaw, author of the hilarious and illustrated Ellie McDoodle series.  She invited us to explore the connections between art and writing, and shared some of her own sketches and storyboards (which were AWESOME!)

In my WIP (if you can really call it that), I have two characters who appear to be antagonistic, but I see a connection between them. Just taking the time to put their physical characteristics on paper and think about them as "people" was tremendous.  What would they wear?  What do they like?  How do they perceive themselves as they make choices about what they eat and do?
I had been struggling with their names, as well, and after drawing them, POOF!  They named themselves.  It was amazing! 


On Tuesday, Julie True Kingsley joined us with a writing prompt on character development through music.  I must admit, this was the opposite of a "Quick Write" because I played and played with music for a long time.  However, the taking my sketch from the previous day and providing a musical concurrence between the characters helped me find depth within my characters.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the exercise:

Step One:

I used my sketch from the day before. :)

Step Two:
Find songs that match your character’s inner and outer character.  I did both my protagonist and antagonist today.  (Overachiever!)

Beth- protagonist
Outside: Coldplay Paradise
Beth emanates perfection.  She's pretty, smart, organized and and artistic.  She is also very internal and private and does not share her life, family issues, and inner conflicts and struggles.  She has built up walls around herself and believes that if she just thinks and acts like everyone expects, then she will be ok.  She won't let anyone get too close or they may shatter her to pieces.
Inside: Foo Fighters The Pretender or maybe Green Day She 
Her inner voice knows that it is all just a sham, and she is repressing serious anger issues and is self-depreciating.  She is suppressing this inner voice and it will eventually lead to some bad stuff.

Dani- antagonist
Outside:  Wolfmother The Joker and the Thief
Dani is a "jock" and very social.  She jokes around with others, often for her own benefit, and can be cruel at times.  She has a very tough exterior and uses bravado to prevent others from seeing her true self and her perceived weaknesses.
Inside: Death Cab for Cutie I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Dani wants to be seen in a feminine way,  especially by her long time "bud" (I don't know his name yet- need to draw him, too) who actually has a crush on Beth.  Dani is fiercly loyal to her "bud" and sees Beth's lack of interest as insulting, infuriating, and unfair (because Dani is the only one who TRULY loves him).  Her love is intense, and pure (in her mind), and she has no idea how to express those feelings.

Step three:
Write your character's story with the music playing!  See what happens...

Below is a section of the story that I have been extending.  The existing part is in black, and today's dialogue is in blue.  I decided to focus on Dani's voice.

"Yo, Dave.  Gimme a pencil."
"Forgot yours again, Dani?"
"No.  I gave it to Steve in third period.  Dumbass broke his and he didn't give it back."
"Here's two.  One for now and one for later, a special present."
"Thanks so much.  I'll cherish them forever."
I roll my eyes and turn around, but I can feel the warmth of his touch in the wood of those yellow #2s.  I resist the urge to put them up to my nose to see if they smell like him, like fresh cut grass and fabric softener.  Those opportunities to get close to him, to take in his scent, have become fewer and fewer as we've gotten older.  The days of intramural soccer, racing down the field together, the occasional foul and tumble into each other are memories now.  Varsity sports have separated us by gender, and our connection balances on the edge of our mutual love of the game.  It doesn't matter that we are still neighbors, those random dorbell rings and invitations to join into spontaneous ball games are in the past.  Our only real opportunities to connect anymore are relegated to Language arts period 4 in the form of a pencil.  I slide one into my backpack, next to my pack of Bic's.  Yeah, I could have used a pen.  David prefers pencils.

The period bell rings and at last we are released into the swell of hormone-ridden hallways.  The sweet smell of Axe combined with mint and sweat, lockers slamming, laughing and whispers engulf me as I head to the cafeteria.  Nonsense.  The energy it must take to be popular.  Thrashing through the swarm of Hollister and Abercrombie, I imagine a place where I might belong.  Not here.
As I round the corner, turquoise blue catches my eye.  Of course.  Now it all makes sense.
Of course she is in the library at lunchtime.  I'm sure Miss I-Am-So-Smart-And-Perfect is thinking that she can get another shiny "A+" to add to her perfect GPA by spending her time trolling around with the librarian instead of ruining her perfect figure eating in the cafeteria.
What is wrong with her?  She sits in front of me in Lit class, and has yet to say a word to anyone but Mr. Sykes.  I study her glossy honey locks, held in place by a gold clip every day.   So does David, sitting in the seat next to mine.  I see him watching her, waiting for an awkward opportunity to catch her eye that never comes, because she never turns around.  Miss Stiff-Neck.
Who does she think she is?   She thinks that she can just ignore the rest of us, her subordinates, by raising her hand, always getting a, "Very insightful!" or a, "Nice analogy!" from the teacher.   Miss Gifted-Dream-Student would never think of associating with the rest of us peons occupying her air.
What does he see in her?  Poor David, the notion that she would ever consider him as a potential prom date has him oozing with want.  For two years I've witnessed his pathetic attempts to engage in conversation, his faulty pedestrian attempts to make her smile.  Yet his ardent efforts are continually met with lukewarm murmurs and indifference. 
When he smiles at her, she doesn't know that he chipped his front tooth in third grade sliding into home plate.  When he looks at her, she doesn't see how his deep jade eyes seek entry into her soul.  She doesn't feel the bass rhythm of his voice resonating deep in her heart.   I do.

 There she goes, her aura floating into the Non-Fiction section.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

She has everything, knows everything, and yet she has no clue when it comes to David's attention.  I wonder what Miss Look-At-My-Expensive-Monogrammed-Backpack will do when she discovers her precious bag has disappeared and vomited its contents all over the courtyard?
Let me know.  I'll be eating lunch.


This exercise- sketching and providing a musical concurrence was VERY helpful.   When I was extending the piece above, I even overlapped both of the girls' outside songs while I read my existing work- the resulting effect was a mess, and very conflicted, and awesome.

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