Monday, February 8, 2016

We call this "research" by Cheryl Harper

That six or seven seasons of that television show I just watched in about a month? The two hours I spent on Pinterest? That's research. It is! I was working. My main takeaways from watching all of 30 Rock in a row: I am Liz Lemon. I need Liz Lemon gifs at hand at all times. And not even losing my remote can stop me if I'm motivated.

Pinterest actually has a little more direct relation to writing (she says as the halo over her head tilts dangerously). Right now, I'm working on a proposal for a new series. Want to see my hero board? There's also one for heroines but it needs some work. For me, every story starts with one scene that I can see vividly in my head. Three friends at a girls' night in-Winner Takes All. A bombshell in a red dress with a goofy dog in the middle of a staid office-Heart's Refuge. My hero striding out of prison-Title TBD but it's coming! Unfortunately, publishing has not yet developed the capability of the editor/writer mind meld so I have to put some words on paper. And one scene won't cut it.

From the single scene, I can start to figure out who the people are. Then it's all 20 Questions in my brain, like I'm suffering through a first date and doing my best to make conversation.
What sort of work do you do?
Where did you grow up?
Is your family close?
What kind of music do you listen to?
How do you feel about the state of my bangs? (This is not a real question I ask, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. Also, I would never ask that on a first date because I would be afraid of the answer, no matter what it was.)

But the best part is turning to my old friend Pinterest as I search for ideas on what my characters look like. We do not judge books by covers, but if I can find the image that clicks, all this stuff that I've imagined might be the answer to my first date question slips into focus. One scene, fully formed characters with their own style, and then...the hard part. How do we get from that first scene to a happily ever after? Yeah, I'm still trying to find the foolproof method to get there. Mostly, I wander around in the wilderness until my editor hacks through and shows me the path. Editors are heroes, people.

I'd love to hear your suggestions on people who should be on my boards, heroines especially. What sort of character are you missing in your reading now? Or what's the type that that draws you in every single time?

18 comments:

  1. Wow Cheryl, I'm impressed. Even though the stories come to me when it comes time to searching out photos of my characters I find that really hard to do. They may be in my head but not on any page anywhere. I buy a lot of western magazines, horse magazines even though I live in a city--so my characters all tend to wear boots. Ha!

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  2. I loved your characters in Heart's Refuge--two- and four-legged, alike. It's great to learn the backstory of how they come to life.

    Best wishes with the proposal!

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    1. Thanks, Kate. I've known some really cute doggy-types, so I've got plenty to choose from for those characters.

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  3. I love Pinterest! I can also spend many many hours on there. Not sure I can call it all for the sake of my stories, but oh well! It's fun and we all need that sometimes. I don't have any heroine suggestions for you except that I love them with a little spunk and some quick wit. She has to be someone I would want to be friends with and I love to laugh, so a sense of humor is a must! Good luck with your proposal :)

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    1. Thank you! I like the same kind of heroine.

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  4. Great post. I've been thinking about the same thing -- research and characters, and where ideas come from. Great minds, and all that. My favorite heroines are the spunky kind, and ones with a sense of humor.

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    1. Hey, me too! I like to watch and read and write them.

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  5. Having recently ventured into the world of Pinterest, I enjoyed reading this post, Cheryl. Love your hero board!

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    1. Thank you. I do find it much easier to find hero inspiration. OR I spend more time doing it, maybe!

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  6. Very interesting, Cheryl! Sounds like we have a similar process as far as that first scene goes. And then the characters take it from there. I'm like Roz though when it comes to finding pics of my characters. They are in my head, but I can never accurately find real photos of them. Good luck, but I know you'll get there without it :)

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    1. Thank you! Sometimes I have to mash a few together. That just means more research...

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  7. I do look for images on-line, but I haven't tried Pinterest...so that's how I'll spend my afternoon. I'm starting a new book and I have to have my characters nailed down. That means names and what they look like. Great post!!

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    1. Oh, names are even harder for me! I tend to want to use the same ones over and over. I've been forcing myself to look at baby name sites for more options, but I fall back to old familiar ones.

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  8. I need to make better use of Pinterest. I tend to do it at the start of a story so I have something to put up when I do my AFS, LOL. FYI, for character names, I have a bible: The Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I have two (print) copies I've used it so much. Great post, Cheryl!

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  9. Uhhh....I think your hero board is teeming with eye candy and is off to a great start. (Hi Cheryl!! I have one more Heartwarming book to read ahead of yours. Can't wait to start your book, I LOVE your books!! Sorry for the digression....I just had to stick that in.) I like funny characters too. Have you ever seen that movie The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges? I loved the characters in that movie. Have you ever tried thinking of movies you love because of the great cast, and then getting ideas from them for character traits to include in your books? Since I'm not a writer this might sound ridiculous, and if so I apologize. I'm always impressed by a movie when there's a great cast, and I think about it long after if the cast did a particularly good job at portraying certain characters; their personalities and style. Does that make sense, or am I barking up the wrong tree with this suggestion? ( :

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    1. Okay, I thought about my reply and realized that it's probably not coming across correctly. Obviously you get inspiration from movie characters since you have a hero board made up of them. I was just trying to convey that a good way to get inspiration would be to START by thinking of a favorite movie because there are likely several characters that may come to mind right away and then you can go from there, instead of thinking of them randomly. I still don't know if I'm making sense. : (

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  10. Like Roz, I root through magazines, looking for the right face, and when I find it, somehow I see beyond the toothpaste or diet drink they're selling and see what's in their souls. Weird, I know. I love heroines who are good, strong, noble people. I can hear you groaning. I can hear Victoria groaning. I grew up in the fifties and sixties when my mother taught me that society rose to the level of class, compassion, and caring that women demanded of it. I think we unburdened ourselves of that in later years because we wanted equal status and men were never required to be responsible for those things. I'm wondering if we maybe should take it back. We're better at it than most men. Whew. Heavy. And, of course, a woman should always be funny because sometimes all you can do is laugh. Laurie, I love The Mirror Has Two Faces!

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