Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brainstorming and Brownies, OH MY!


I'm really struggling right now where I'm at with my newest book.

I'm over a third done, approaching the half way mark. As I've said before, I'm a SOTP writer, but there comes a point where even I have to sit down and figure out where I'm at and reassess. That's where I'm at, and can I just say? It's brutal.

I have many *points* of my story concrete, and I LOVE THEM. I think overall things are going very well. But there are a few things that just aren't sitting well. I know this because when I try to explain this part of the story to my husband/sister/mother, they wrinkle up their nose. Talk about body language! That isn't good either. My sister said today about one particular instance today, "I just don't think that would happen..."

And I thought about it. And thought about it.

And here is my conclusion: It could happen. What is REALISTIC to one person could be totally off the wall to another.

Example: You're sitting at the table, enjoying a... um... brownie. Yes. Okay so you pick up your brownie, the LAST one out of the batch, and someone walks up behind you and scares you, causing you to drop said brownie on the floor. You pick it up in less than two seconds.

What do you do?

Do you throw said brownie in the trash and sniffle at your lost treat?

Or do you abide by the 5 second rule, blow off the bottom, MAYBE scrape a little bit of the bottom ONLY if you actually see a piece of dirt or something... then plop it into your mouth?

Now put this situation into a book. If I have character throw it in the trash because they aren't about to eat something that's been on the floor.... Okay, fine, no one is really going to think badly of this person. We might drool a little... but we can think this is reasonable, especially if character is a germophone.

BUT! The second scenario... many people would cringe and think it is TOTALLY horrible for someone to eat off the floor. I mean, who would do that? Completely unreasonable to have that happen, because no one in their right mind would do that.

But... then you have people like ME that would grin and nod their head, thinking that the author must have been in my house before when this happened and I thought no one was looking...

Bottom Line: Reasonableness is in the eye of the beholder.So then, how do we know HOW reasonable we need to be? Who do we cater to?

Krista's Answer: Our characters. They drive the story. We write their story. Would your character munch off the floor? Then GO FOR IT!

And that's what I'm learning about my characters, my antagonist and hero to be exact. It's not unreasonable if that's how they reacted. If I'm having a hard time with something, then I'm realizing that I just need to dig deeper into their character and get to know them better. I need to take them to lunch and let them just spill their guts to me. It's then that I will find out what makes them tick, what drives them, and WHY they react the way they do.

Discussion: Have you ever written something that you feared people would think was "unreasonable" or "unbelievable"?

Oh, and feel free to let me know if you'd eat the brownie or not. I'm interested in hearing what everyone would do!

16 comments:

Erica Vetsch said...

As to the brownie thing, I'd have to assess when was the last time I'd mopped the floor. :D

And as to unrealistic behavior...anything's up for grabs as long as you properly motivate it. With proper motivation, a character can do all sorts of things we might think odd in other circs.

Jody Hedlund said...

I'd definitely eat the brownie. I figure a little dirt helps build the immune system. :)

I think we all reach a point half way where we need to evaluate how our stories are going and can we resolve them in a unique but believable way.

And I agree with Erica, if we motivate our characters properly, and perhaps give hints earlier that this odd behavior is apart of their nature, then it can come across as believable.

Heather Sunseri said...

I agree with Jody. A little dirt might actually help us. I would blow on it first, though.

Krista, I feel for you. I hit that point with my novel not too long ago. I actually stopped writing for a month and almost gave up on that story! I'm so glad I didn't!! I rewrote the first hundred or so pages, and I think my story is much stronger now.

It will come to you!!

sherrinda said...

Brush that baby off and plop it in your mouth! Chocolate should NEVER go in the trash. EVER. :)

Yes, I have written something that is probably too over the top. My hero gets wounded 3 times...in a short time frame. Mere scratches in his mind and not enough to keep him down, but still...it is a bit much. :)

Carol Bruce Collett said...

I agree with Sherrinda-NEVER waste chocolate.

If what your character does is really what s/he would do, then it's not unreasonable. But if people are questioning it, maybe it's the motivation or characterization that is the issue, not really what the character did?

Georgiana said...

I've most definitely written a thing or two that might be unbelieveable in real life, but I was writing chick lit and the most sinister/funny/embarrassing things seemed to happen to my heroines....

As for the brownie, I'm the germophobe. NOT going in this mouth. Or perhaps it's because I don't mop?

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Digesting brownie.

And yes, I've risked with my characters, but I agree w/ Jody about setting it up so it almost become an odd predictability.
~ Wendy

Katie Ganshert said...

Halarious pic! I think anything can be believable in fiction as long as the motivation behind it is uber strong and compelling.

Weronika said...

I agree with the comments before me -- anything can be believable if the motivation is right and the thought process is explained in sufficient detail to the reader. :)

Hope that you continue with the current WiP -- Do not quit! The rewards will be great.

Have a great week!

Marybeth Poppins said...

Haven't you ever heard "God made dirt and dirt don't hurt!" Geez...why waste desert!!!

Its all about the story. It doesn't matter if it is reasonable that any old person would do it. It matters if it is reasonable that YOUR CHARACTER would do it. :)

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

I'm all for eating the brownie. I've eaten a lot worse. And it's a crime against life not to eat a good brownie!

Definitely--my story now has some imaginative elements to it, perhaps more so than any other that I've written. For my situation, those elements are situations that happen outside of the characters. I went back and forth over how realistic it was until I realized something very important: it's a story. Every book we open asks us to be willing to imagine. And the greatest stories feed imagination.

You're completely right. We need to be faithful to our characters and accurately depict their actions and responses. But it's okay to take a risk every once in a while. After all, that might be where the "magic" happens. :0)

Valerie said...

KP, you know I'd totally eat the brownie. Actually if we were together, and one of us dropped the brownie, it would then be "in play" because we'd both dive for it. Then when I got to it first (because I'm fast for a fat girl when there are brownies involved), I'd give you half. :)

Krista Phillips said...

Okay, I think the general consesus is that we'd all eat the brownie. There are a few blowers, and a few "what the heck"ers, but all in all, chocolate is more important than dirt.

And I am SO with Jody. A little dirt does the body good:-) (this coming from the Mom that also did the "sucking" off of the pacifier when it fell on the floor and kid was screaming and no sink was handy to do the trick... I'm still alive, so all is well!)

SO agree with everyone that motivation is key. But even with that, I think it is subjective. A germophobe would argue that even the most delicious of brownies should never be eaten off the floor.

I think I can make my motive well in my book. I really do. I might be pushing the envelope a LITTLE but... I write humorous romance. I mean, it can't be COMPLETELY realistic otherwise it wouldn't be funny. Gotta add a little spice.

Oh, and Valerie... I'd share my brownie too. BUt as I said... I might take the bigger half:-)

T. Anne said...

Gosh I might snatch up that brownie the next day! Just kidding. Honestly, I'd swipe it up, wipe it off, say a quick prayer and moan at the ooey chocolatey goodness all the way to my stomach. YUM!

BTW, the picture stunned me. My oldest did that when he was around one or two with both peanut butter then later,vaseline. Both are fun to clean so I was grateful.

Krista Phillips said...

LOL T.Anne. You and me both about the brownie.

And for the record, I LOVED that picture, but I found it on the internet... I don't have any of my own like that.

Although there was the one time my daughter and nephew decided it'd be great fun to get into Aunt Jami's fridge. She walked in and they were both standing up there (before they could even walk really) taking turns tossing eggs on the floor and laughing as they went splat.

A similar picture could be said of them playing "splash" in the toilet.

Ahhh, our wonderful kids:-)

Suzanne said...

When I have problems like this, I usually find that I haven't set up the character's motivation well enough. If it truly is in the protagonist's character to pick up a brownie and eat it after it's been dropped on the floor, then that character trait should have been shown some way before then so the reader might wrinkle her nose, but nod and say, "Yeah, that person would probably do that."

On the other hand, I've got a lot of remarkable things in my novel that I truly do need to have the reader buy into. Because of this, I try to go overboard with making sure that I've set things up to be believable within the context of the story. So when someone tells me that something isn't believable, I feel like I really have to take that seriously.

My husband was especially good at doing this for me as he read the "pre-draft" of each chapter as I wrote it. Sometimes it was brutal to deal with his comments, but he did a great job of making sure that I kept things realistic, so I call him my "reality man." LOL