Saturday, August 25, 2012

We, the storymakers.

I was just reading an award winning blog, this morning--one I'd stumbled across serendipitously. I read it with an eye toward why someone decided to give that particular blog any special distinction. What I found was that it was very much like another blog from an old friend of mine: full of little anecdotes about daily living.

Both of these blogs captivate me. It helps that the writing style is polished, sure, and the entries are easy to read. What really makes these blogs valuable to me are the stories they tell.

These are stories of real people with real, ongoing problems. Sometimes life is great, other times... yeah. It's like daytime television, minus the sex, violence, and bizarre tangle of relationships (then again, I don't watch daytime television, so I'm just guessing based on the old stereotypes).

Humans are, on the whole, social creatures. We interact for all sorts of reasons. Our interactions bond us to one another, convey information, help us learn more about the world around us, and so forth. Often, the most socially successful are those who best articulate their side of things. I'm sure we all know someone whose stories we just love to sit and listen to--the people who can make even mundane occurrences into an adventure.

We, as humans, are storymakers. We're not all particularly good at it, but I think it's in our blood.

The stories that resonate with us are, at their heart, our own stories--either the ones we've lived (or are living), or the ones we'd like to live. We flock to the best storymakers not merely for entertainment, but because they tell us about ourselves in some way. They give us guidance and perspective on the human condition. On our condition. They let us know that we're not alone in the universe, and that our struggling doggy paddle in the sea of life's adversity is neither hopelessly unique nor impossible to overcome.

The lives of the women I've mentioned in this post aren't models of glamor or fame. They're both everyday women, wives and mothers, taking care of their families and trying to make the world a little better for it. Watching their struggles, their triumphs, tells us that great, overarching story I believe resides in the human heart:  that, in the end, even we, in our sometimes pathetic-seeming lives, still have a real shot at "happily ever after."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Building Moiré

Of all the characters in The Cinderella Project, I've gotten more comments (and likes) for Moiré than for anyone else. That really doesn't surprise me because honestly, she was the most fun character to write--and I think that comes through very clearly in the text. In fact, Moiré  was such a fun and engaging character to write that she has become a standard archetype for other of my female characters. That means I'll have to be careful not to recycle her too much. But hey, if it ain't broke...

Moiré, like Nick and Ella, came from a less-than-ideal home situation. That's a very common thing these days, and I think people will be able to relate to her (and the others) as a result. Rather than take Nick's approach to dealing with the skeletons in the closet of childhood, Moiré simply attacks life with a joie de vivre and wit that really is infectious. There were times I'd finish writing scenes with her and think, "Dang, if I were still single, and fictional..." She's the kind of person people like to be around because she makes them feel better about life, the universe and everything.

Not surprisingly, Nick finds himself inadvertently interested in her spunk and charm, especially since her work as his research assistant means they get to spend quite a bit of time with one another. Unfortunately, this is a real problem for Nick. Moiré, being the wonderful girl she is, actually becomes the major point of conflict for our intrepid Prince Charming--she turns out to be much, much more desirable in almost every way than Nick's "Cinderella."

So what's a guy to do?

Making Moiré work as an enjoyable character was easier than I thought--when it actually worked. There were a few struggles up front, but once I found her voice, it was just like the saying, "Writing is easy: you just sit at the keyboard and open a vein." When the real Moiré finally came on stage, she made it easier for me to find that vein simply because of who she was. Her carefree attitude meant that I could more easily "go with the flow" of her character. Writing Moiré was not so much a matter of crafting a character as simply turning an existing person lose on my pages, and hanging on for the ride.

It was a great ride.

I think the most winning point of The Cinderella Project is the ongoing chemistry between Nick and Moiré. Putting them together was such a natural thing, and I think the audience will agree with that. There's every reason in the world to want them to get together.

But Nick's too good to break his promises. And in the end, he never does go back on his word.

So what happens to our darling Miss Moiré? I'll leave that to the book to reveal. I think you'll like it, though. I know I did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Building Ella

Ella... what to even say about her? Making a villain is an interesting task because it's far too easy to get into setting up the proverbial "straw man" character. Ella sometimes toes that line closely. Making her the kind of person a reader would "love to hate" didn't take a whole ton of thought in the early drafts, but that bothered me. I kept going back and asking myself, "If she's really this brainless, antagonizing bimbo, then what in the world attracted Nick to her in the first place? And why on Earth is he still with her?"

Nick's noble "I'm keeping my promises" thing only carried it so far. It works as a plot device, and it's really one of Nick's prime strengths--but he's not an idiot, and he's not a glutton for punishment. In the end, the only good solution was to make some real changes to change Ella.

Forming the "new and improved" Ella only required a quick trip to the Wizard of Oz to get a basic heart and brain for her. In fact, in her revised form, Ella actually retains some initial sweetness and charm. She also picked up some clever subtlety that she uses quite effectively against her poor fiancé. I liked that, and finally, that nagging voice in the back of my head that told me, "She doesn't work for smart men" went quiet, and I found my zen with regards to  Ella.

Ella is a primadonna if nothing else, and a natural actress. Though I don't dwell on her acting abilities very much in the story, she really did fleece poor Nick and seized his heart with barely an effort. In her angelic guise, she really is the perfect "Cinderella"-- phenomenally attractive in every way. Nick loved her wit, her intelligence, and her charm. Her looks were a pretty nice bonus as well, and Ella knew that.

When the story opens, we're a couple of months into the actual engagement between Cinderella and her prince, and--secure in her capture--she feels safe in taking off her mask a little more each day. Nick finds this increasingly disturbing, of course, but he's aware that marriage requires work and maintenance to make it happy and lasting, and he's not so naive as to expect endless, honeymoon-style bliss every moment of every day. Because of that, he's willing to be appropriately flexible and forgiving. Still, he hopes that Ella will shape up once the knot is tied. Just the same, Ella's antics really touch off some deep-seated warning bells in our hero.

Ella is modeled on your basic abuser, and frankly, I never did like her character. That was the point. Originally, however, Nick's medieval fiancée was actually quite a nice lady--one you would actually hope would marry the handsome prince. I'm still not exactly sure why I chose to remake her in the image of a demon, but, for the purposes of the story, it worked.

I don't think I'll ever likely do another "Ella" character--at least not in such a substantial role as I have her in for The Cinderella Project. I have wondered, from time to time, if  The Cinderella Project were a movie, who would I cast in the role of Ella? I'm still not sure, to be honest, but it would be fun to figure that out one of these days. I almost want to say "Reese Whitherspoon," but I'd hate to see her play a jerk.

Oh well.