Character Post: Maura Bradford
When I first started this blog almost a year ago, I started these things called “character posts” where I would take a character from my novel-in-progress and write a brief description. I ended up scrapping that novel, but I’ve been working on something new that I feel pretty confident about. I’m hoping to have the first chapter up here tomorrow, but for now I’ll introduce you to the protagonist and a small synopsis. By the way, this is based on the prompt that you guys voted on a few months back.
Maura Bradford is the daughter of an established lawyer, Colin, and his Southern belle wife, Madison. When Maura is just an infant, Madison finds a husband for her daughter. She grooms Maura to grow up and marry the sweet little neighbor boy, Jack.
And get married they do. Why not? They’re best friends and have the same goals in life, so there’s no better reason to get married. That is, until secrets start to reveal themselves. Jack begins spending more time away from home. Maura is eyeing the new intern at her firm. The marriage is falling apart for reasons that none of them are willing to explain. Finally, the couple finds a glue to hold them together, despite the best efforts of outside destructive forces.
Maura is not a beautiful young woman. At best, she would be considered plain. Nobody in high school or college had much interest in her romantically, but this gave her time to focus on her career pursuits as an architect, to her mother’s dismay. She loves Jack with all her heart, but not in the way she always thought she would. Nevertheless, she gets married to Jack and hopes that their friendship will keep the marriage together.
Parenthood is another incentive to get married. She has misgivings because of her mother’s awkward child-rearing techniques, but she is confident that she has a mother’s loving heart.
Maura’s relationship with Madison is strained. On one hand, she despises her mother’s backward ways and wants nothing to do with her. But on the other hand, she craves her mother’s acceptance. Her relationship with her father is a bit more solid. Strong and silent like he is, she suffers her mother’s judgment in silence.
Copyright 2013, Irena Miller. You can use this stuff as inspiration, but do not use this character. It’s illegal.
The Great Gatsby and Severus Snape: what makes characters so interesting?
In light of the new Great Gatsby film, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of characters—maybe not how they behave, but how they convey the bigger message.
Let’s take a look at Gatsby and Daisy. By looking at their actions alone, they are vapid and shallow individuals. So why does their story still touch our hearts in a way that we can’t explain when we examine their behavior?
It’s because they are their ideas. Their ideas are what hit us the most. Gatsby, in all the splendor of his decaying gold, sees that green light—that green light that says, “Gatsby, now is the time to go for it.” There is a green light within all of us. It’s something that guides us forward without our realization—love, hope, a bigger dream. For Gatsby, that green light was Daisy, the epitome of a fickle life. After all, what is a daisy? A measly flower that sticks around for only a season, only to wilt and die away with the rest of them. That’s why we hate Daisy so much and wonder why Gatsby would love her. She’s too small for his dreams. Her green light has faded into the coveted gold of the roaring twenties and a dying summer. This infatuation with something so frivolous is Gatsby’s fatal flaw—something we all hope we can recognize when the time comes for us to decide what the green light in our lives might be.
In a more modern context, Severus Snape is the Gatsby of the Harry Potter world. Now I’m not comparing Lily Potter to Daisy Buchanan, but the idea here is the same. Snape wants something he cannot have. By letting the thing consume him, he becomes the idea itself. Gatsby was success. Snape was love.
This is why we love characters: not because of what they do or how they behave. If that was the case, people wouldn’t cheer for Snape and Gatsby wouldn’t be great. We love characters because we see ourselves in them. Sometimes, we see what we want to be. All of us want to love someone so passionately and perfectly that it humanizes us to a degree that cannot be fathomed. All of us want to capture that which we think is golden, even when we have everything else.
My advice to you when writing is to search within yourself for your own green light. Find out what your patronus would be and if it would take the form of someone you love with your whole heart. Take the depths of your emotions to the page because the characters that feel the most deeply are the ones that resonate within us the most.
Leave me some characters that you think meet the caliber of Daisy and Gatsby. What ideas do they represent and instill in their readers? If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or send me an ask.
Writing About ‘the Big Stuff’ (and a personal update)
A lot of writers are afraid to write about the big issues. Despite all the fantastic fanfiction I’ve read that contain homosexuality, there’s not too many novels out there that explore the issues and romance such a relationship. Many of you are staunch supporters of feminism, but how many books have you read where the heroine is not dependent on romance? It’s the twenty-first century, but I still haven’t come across many interracial couples in my reading.
I’m not saying that these books don’t exist; there are some authors out there who are willing to write about the things that nobody wants to talk about. I think all of you can be that way as well.
Here’s the thing: writers change the way the world thinks. We put our ideas onto paper and the world finds it comforting to know that someone else is thinking the same thing. These big issues are relevant today. If someone is brave enough to talk about them, we can step closer to change.
I say don’t be afraid to write about what you care about. If a “controversial” issue is near and dear to your heart, write about it! Look at all the classics: 1984, Lord of the Flies, Farenheit 451… These books were fearless and so were their authors.
Writing questions? Or any questions?
As always, my ask box is open for questions and I will be sitting down tomorrow morning to answer any questions you leave for me, so if there’s something you’d like to see or just something in general that you’d like to know, leave it here!
Much love, Irena
I Thought the Title of This Was Weird So I Changed It.
- 1) Sexuality?
- 2) If you could meet anyone on this earth, who would it be?
- 3) Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 23, give me line 17.
- 4) What do you think about most?
- 5) What does your latest text message from someone else say?
- 6) Do you sleep with or without clothes on?
- 7) What's your strangest talent?
- 8) Girls.... (finish the sentence); Boys.... (finish the sentence)
- 9) Ever had a poem or song written about you?
- 10) When is the last time you played the air guitar?
- 11) Do you have any strange phobias?
- 12) Ever stuck a foreign object up your nose?
- 13) What's your religion?
- 14) If you are outside, what are you most likely doing?
- 15) Do you prefer to be behind the camera or in front of it?
- 16) Simple but extremely complex. Favorite band?
- 17) What was the last lie you told?
- 18) Do you believe in karma?
- 19) What does your URL mean?
- 20) What is your greatest weakness; your greatest strength?
- 21) Who is your celebrity crush?
- 22) Have you ever gone skinny dipping?
- 23) How do you vent your anger?
- 24) Do you have a collection of anything?
- 25) Do you prefer talking on the phone or video chatting online?
- 26) Are you happy with the person you've become?
- 27) What's a sound you hate; sound you love?
- 28) What's your biggest "what if"?
- 29) Do you believe in ghosts? How about aliens?
- 30) Stick your right arm out; what do you touch first? Do the same with your left arm.
- 31) Smell the air. What do you smell?
- 32) What's the worst place you have ever been to?
- 33) Choose East Coast or West Coast?
- 34) Most attractive singer of your opposite gender?
- 35) To you, what is the meaning of life?
- 36) Define Art.
- 37) Do you believe in luck?
- 38) What's the weather like right now?
- 39) What time is it?
- 40) Do you drive? If so, have you ever crashed?
- 41) What was the last book you read?
- 42) Do you like the smell of gasoline?
- 43) Do you have any nicknames?
- 44) What was the last movie you saw?
- 45) What's the worst injury you've ever had?
- 46) Have you ever caught a butterfly?
- 47) Do you have any obsessions right now?
- 48) What's your sexual orientation?
- 49) Ever had a rumor spread about you?
- 50) Do you believe in magic?
- 51) Do you tend to hold grudges against people who have done you wrong?
- 52) What is your astrological sign?
- 53) Do you save money or spend it?
- 54) What's the last thing you purchased?
- 55) Love or lust?
- 56) In a relationship?
- 57) How many relationships have you had?
- 58) Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
- 59) Where were you yesterday?
- 60) Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?
- 61) Are you wearing socks right now?
- 62) What's your favorite animal?
- 63) What is your secret weapon to get someone to like you?
- 64) Where is your best friend?
- 65) Spit or swallow?(;
- 66) What is your heritage?
- 67) What were you doing last night at 12 AM?
- 68) What do you think is Satan's last name?
- 69) Be honest. Ever gotten yourself off?
- 70) Are you the kind of friend you would want to have as a friend?
- 71) You are walking down the street on your way to work. There is a dog drowning in the canal on the side of the street. Your boss has told you if you are late one more time you get fired. What do you do?
- 72) You are at the doctor’s office and she has just informed you that you have approximately one month to live. a) Do you tell anyone/everyone you are going to die? b) What do you do with your remaining days? c) Would you be afraid?
- 73) You can only have one of these things; trust or love.
- 74) What's a song that always makes you happy when you hear it?
- 75) What are the last four digits in your cell phone number?
- 76) In your opinion, what makes a great relationship?
- 77) How can I win your heart?
- 78) Can insanity bring on more creativity?
- 79) What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far?
- 80) What size shoes do you wear?
- 81) What would you want to be written on your tombstone?
- 82) What is your favorite word?
- 83) Give me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word; heart.
- 84) What is a saying you say a lot?
- 85) What's the last song you listened to?
- 86) Basic question; what's your favorite color/colors?
- 87) What is your current desktop picture?
- 88) If you could press a button and make anyone in the world instantaneously explode, who would it be?
- 89) What would be a question you'd be afraid to tell the truth on?
- 90) One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by MUMMIES. The mummies aren't really doing anything, they're just standing around your bed. What do you do?
- 91) You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What is that power?
- 92) You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?
- 93) You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?
- 94) You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who would it be?
- 95) You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
- 96) Do you have any relatives in jail?
- 97) Have you ever thrown up in the car?
- 98) Ever been on a plane?
- 99) If the whole world were listening to you right now, what would you say?
What should you write about?
For those of you who aren’t writers, it is so difficult to explain just how infuriating this question is. Of course there are some obvious answers, but there are some obstacles, such as the voice in the back of your head saying “No one will want to read it.”
Here are some honest tips to keep you writing.
1. Describe something you’re passionate about. Think about all that fanfiction out there, written by all kinds of people who have two things: a computer and a whole lot of passion. If you aren’t passionate about the love lives of your favorite TV characters, what are you passionate about? Is it cooking? Traveling? Sword fighting? Include it as an element in your book. If there’s a part of you in there, it becomes more special.
2. Think about what other people are passionate about. Other people’s interests should be secondary to yours, but maybe there’s someone in your life who you want to reach out to. Maybe you want to write a coming-of-age novel because you want to reach out to that struggling girl in your class. Or maybe you saw the way she smiled during history class, so you’ll want to write a period romance. Just make sure it’s still a part of you.
3. How have you gotten where you are now? Who and what got you to the place you’re in now? Are you there under extraordinary circumstances? If not, what would happen if something extraordinary happened to walk into your life?
4. Write regardless. If you have no idea what to write about, write anyway. Write about the turkey sandwich you had for lunch because you never know when the phrase “dry density, interrupted by cold disappointment” might come in handy. Describe people, things, places. It’s your job to create a new world for the ones who can’t see the one they’re living in, so observe it and document it faithfully. If you do, you’ll never run out of things to write about.
Writing Sex Scenes
With the Fifty Shades of Gray hype still going strong, readers are looking for something titillating. Again, the burden falls to writers to create something that your readers will be able to… ahem, experience.
1. One of the keys for writing sex scenes is to include extremely sensory passages. “We got naked and we had sex” is not going to suffice. Make your reader fall in love with one of the characters involved by giving them the sensual experience.
TOUCH is probably the most important sense here. Describe the feeling of skin against skin with nothing but sweat in between. Wrap your character in the Egyptian cotton sheets or throw them up against the cold wall for something more animalistic.
SOUND is important as well. The erratic breathing, the vocals, the mood music, the night sounds outside the window… really put your reader there.
2. Stay in character. So many times have I read sex scenes in novels only to find that I have lost the characters within the heat of the moment. The reader will be more emotionally invested if your characters stay true to themselves while having sex. For example, if your character is a CEO, put him/her on top or in the more dominant role. If your character is generally shy, don’t give him/her some weird sense of bravado that seems to fall from the sky.
3. Don’t forget the emotion. Unless your characters are having a one-night-stand, there ought to be some emotions involved. Make sure you include these feelings in the sex scene. If they’re important to your character, they’re important to your reader. Furthermore, you’re trying to get your reader emotionally invested in the characters.
4. Be realistic. Hours and hours of glorious, heavenly lovemaking on the beach on a bed of roses sounds FANTASTIC! But it’s utterly unrealistic and your reader will see right through it. Sure, it gives some cheap thrills but you’re much better off if your story is written well. Also, general physique should be impressive but not overly exaggerated (cough, cough, size, cough). Think average.
Good literature does not always have to include sex, but it adds layers to your characters and serves to add complexity to their relationships. If the romantic relationship of your characters needs to be expedited a little, throw them in bed together and see what happens.