Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where Does Your AHA! Moments Come From?


I’ve been thinking (dangerous, I know). It occurred to me that you can write and write for years, and love every word you scratch on paper (or computer) no matter how they turn out. I have stories I’ve written over the years, since I was fifteen or so, that I pull out every so often and read for fun. I love the premise and the characters of each and every one of those early efforts. I know those monstrosities wouldn’t even get past a fifth grader but would it be worth it to rewrite them? Not just no, but Heck No! I wouldn’t even try.
What I would try is to give the characters new life. Maybe take the general premise and character names and write a story that the two main characters will shine in. In thinking about that and how I would rather write just about anything right now that would keep me from the dreaded revisions of Perfect Doctor Viv, I realized something.
Rewriting an existing character to make him/her a live, shining embodiment of what they once were is exactly what these revisions are really all about. Taking Viv and Connor from who they are now- before revisions- and turning them into what I wish I could do to any other character in my queue of rubbish… that’s what this rewrite is equivalent to. I might as well stop wishing for one of those to work on because I know it’s not gonna happen. I’m in revision hell and until I can dig my way out, figure out what these two need, I can’t do anything about those other ‘promising’ characters. But I can’t seem to find what this story needs to survive. And then it hit me.
I tend to look at a glass as half full when I need to see it as half empty. Normally that is a good way to view something. But if what’s in the cup is too distasteful to swallow, why make it fuller than it is? Right? Right! In other words, I’m trying too hard.
So- here’s what I plan to do. I will turn that cup over. I’ll add the sweet ingredients necessary to create a palatable concoction. For example- if my hero isn’t heroic enough I don’t have to take him out and rebuild him. I can add some heroics and sweeten the pie. Heroine too sappy or wilty? Toughen her up. Make the hero fight for what he wants- even when he doesn’t know he wants her yet.

I watched ‘Life As We Know It’ last night with granddaughter. I enjoyed the movie immensely. Great plot, loveable characters. Heartache, anger, it ran the gamut of emotions all the way through. Never a dull moment. I found myself not only watching for enjoyment, but watching for ‘why’ I was enjoying the movie. It was a wonderful romance even though the first kiss didn’t come until somewhere in the last hour. But it was so well done that I didn’t even notice that until it happened!
These two met on a blind date set up by their best friends. He arrives to pick her up- an hour late. Then he offers her a helmet to ride the motorcycle he is picking her up on. Not gonna happen in the adorable black dress and four inch heels she’s wearing. She offers to drive them to a dinner he never made the promised reservations for- in her ‘toy’ SMARTCAR that he can barely get into. Then, before she starts the engine, he gets a phone call and sets up an after-date-booty call while she’s listening a foot away! Great tension, wonderful conflict. He’s a playboy and she’s been alone for three years without so much as a kiss from a man. He’s her first date in three years, but she’s not that desperate.
All the way through I kept thinking “These two like each other- really like, not just might.” Nothing really gave the impression, but I sensed it as the movie progressed. It wasn’t because they were getting closer and more lovey-dovey. In fact, there wasn’t really anything to make me think it in an obvious light. They fought at every event they were together at. He reminded me of my hubby- on his most irritable of days- all the way through. I wanted to kick him for her at times! But when he told her he loved her…I wasn’t caught by surprise because I already ‘knew’ it. How? I can’t explain without ruining the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. It was just ‘there’. I just knew.

That is what I need for Viv and Connor. Not the constant combat maybe, but conflict to up the ante at every positive turn. And like the movie, there’s a child at the center- though in a very different aspect. But I have to find what makes these two work with and without the child, and why, so then I can build on that. That, even though they may not realize it, or the reader might not see it coming, the hero and heroine are falling in love so subtly and consistently that when it happens you just know without having to be told. That’s beautiful.

If you haven’t seen ‘Life As We Know It’- do. Watch it and enjoy. Is there a movie that filled you with a total AHA! Moment like this one did for me? One that showed you what you need to fix your ms into what you imagined it, no matter the genre, when you first began writing those two lovely characters? Did it really help you? I’d love to hear about your journey through rewrites and revisions. Or maybe it’s getting that story on ‘paper’ in the first place that you found a solution to something you were stuck on. Share. Really.

And for those I forgot to tell (color me lame for that lapse!)... please go here and see what I have to offer about revision letters and what to do with them. It could save your career!



Gale Stanley said...

First off, I've never seen the movie but after hearing your description I've got to get the dvd. My muse comes at odd times. I haven't had an aha moment from a movie. I usually wake up with them. Things must germinate while I'm sleeping. I keep a pad and pencil on the nighttable.

Nas Dean said...

I'm stuck with getting the story which is in my mind onto the paper. Hopefully something will make an "aha" moment for me too!

Calisa Lewis said...

Gale- get the movie. It's a great one. I did not expect to get anything other than enjoyment out of it so when I got more I was happy.

Nas I hope you get what you need for your ms soon. I love those moments.

L.C. said...

Considering rarely watch TV, and movies only a couple times a month, that doesn't do much for me.

I'm like Gale - ideas come in dreams that I have to write down the second I wake up. Too many times I've woken up and either pulled out the pen/paper or run to the computer in the middle of the night.

What does feed my muse though - music. So many ideas and ah-ha moments come from the moods/lyrics it sets.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I recently whipped out an old manuscript to tinker with it. Like you, I really like the premise. Well, I can definitely see the problems a lot clearer now. We'll see if I can save it though.

Kristi said...

Those ah-ha moments come at such weird times! I loved that movie, just watched it with my hubby a couple weeks back -- and I think (if I'm reading between your lines correctly) that we had the same ah-ha moments at the same time. ;) No babies in my WIP but I'm working on the subtlety factor for my new characters, too.

Calisa Lewis said...

Well Kristi- great minds and all. I'll just bet we did have the ahas at the same time. ;).

Sandy said...

Hi Calisa, believe it or not, my aha! moment came while reading your blog. Gotta rev up the tension between characters while leaving little hints of attraction that, like clues in a mystery, will all come together at the end so the reader will say, "I should have seen it coming." Thanks.
Sandy B

Calisa Lewis said...

Jennifer nice to see you. I love my old stories and can see so much what they don't have or need. It's mind boggling! I actually did attempt to revive one of my old fave in the beginning of my 'professional' writing. It was gonna be the first one I wrote for submission. It's an amnesia story with crazed mountain men and such. I thought about rewriting it into more of a suspense and started the research and early planning. That was when I discovered I'm a panster. I just cannot plot well and that stalled it quickly. That and finding eHqn and learning that what I didn't know could hurt me, or the wip! lol That and the story has a promising second book to it that isn't written and whenever I come across one of those early on, the second story always, always tried to precede the first. I ended up starting a new story from an old premise, not an existing story. My first lesson in writing from eHQn- it's much easier to write a story than to rewrite one that may be too far gone already.

Sandy that's it! 'It' being that elusive mystery I haven't yet seemed to grasp in my own writing. Or not in the contemps yet, paranormal I can do it with easy enough. I'm glad you are leaving here with something for your writing. Good luck with it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My muse visits when I workout. Not sure why that it. If I'm stuck with something, especially after my CPs give me feedback, I exercise and the solution comes to me. :D

Calisa Lewis said...

Stina- that's great. Two muscles working out together. ;) I wish mine came as easy.

Donna said...

The movie sounds pretty good. I'll have to rent it.

As far as my muse, it usually comes while I'm driving. Once in a while, it dings off in my head while I'm taking a workshop totally unrelated to rounding out my characters. Someone will say something that triggers my AHA moment. Sometimes, it's my CPs that trigger it!