Monday, November 28, 2011

Characters Who Inspire, Tuna Fish Sandwiches, and Not Giving Up by Lori Lebonde

How many times have you considered tossing in the towel on a manuscript you know is good but you’re sick of working on it? Or maybe it’s close but just not coming together like it should, so you shove it away, hoping it will age well, like fine wine?

Or do you shudder at the idea of revising, editing, and proofreading your manuscript as many as seventy-two times? (Yes, that’s the latest statistic I’ve heard from successful, multi-pubbed authors.) Perfecting your craft and fine-tuning your manuscript is tough work and not for the faint of heart.

So what should you do?

Take a leaf out of your own book and do what your characters do: they persevere. They don’t give up.

When your characters confront external obstacles, do they shrug and walk away? No. When their goals are too distant to grasp, do your characters decide those goals aren’t really worth the effort after all? Unlikely. When your characters’ motivations evolve and reshape their thoughts and actions in scary or unfamiliar ways, do they race back to their comfort zones—and stay there? No—not if your plot and character arcs progress properly.

Or what about the young men on my local high school football team, which was undefeated…until yesterday? Those boys worked hard seven days a week, often in the cold and pouring rain, to finish their season only one game away from the state championship—a new record for our town. The student fans, parents, and community members who attended every game (sometimes driving hours each way and usually filling the visitors’ stands more than the home team stands were) were so supportive of those boys that newspaper articles mentioned the team’s “twelfth man on the field” and its impact on the team’s success and morale. One fan’s story sticks in my mind: She didn’t have a son on the team, yet she made a protein-packed tuna fish sandwich every week for the team’s running back—despite being at her mother’s side nearly 24/7 for weeks following the mother’s October heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery. Some weeks the woman used high-end tuna, or more expensive bread, or fat-free mayonnaise, all in an effort to keep the sandwich interesting and to give the player even a tiny edge—or so she said. In reality, she demonstrated and reciprocated the boys’ inspiring commitment to their goals, and overcame roadblocks and challenges and turmoil.

So where do these football players and fans—and your own book’s characters—draw their strength to trudge onward, despite the obstacles, the big goals, and the unknown path to the end zone—or the happily ever after?

I don’t know, actually, where the real-life characters draw their strength from. It’s different for each of us, I bet. But your fictional characters get their determination from you. You created them and festooned them with their traits—good and bad—and imbued them with appropriate goals, motivations, and conflicts. You’ve given birth to them. They’re yours. And, once born, they will always exist.

You can use them to help inspire yourself—to persevere, to not give up, to forge ahead, and to tackle the obstacles, including the internal ones. You’ve created those characters and guided them to a happily ever after, so you have it in you to do the same for yourself and finish your manuscript. Right?

And along the way, eat a tuna fish sandwich or two.

By Lori LeBonde
Scarlet Rose Editor

1 comment:

Barbara Weitz said...

Lori...thank you for the post. My writing muse has been in the dumps of late due to my heavy holiday work hours in retail. Unfortunately, writers must eat and pay bills. Sigh. BUT, I had tuna today then read your blog on the heels of thinking dismal thoughts about my current abandoned project. TWRP wants short stories so I figured why not give it a go during these limited hours. Not to mention short stories hon craft. Then I'll go back to the bigger project after the holidays.

So, thanks for the pep talk. I needed one today.