But What Do They WANT?

Hey guys!

I’ve been thinking a lot about character motivation lately. This was brought on by a couple of books I was reading simultaneously, and realized that both of them had some things in common. First of all, they were books I LOVED, and the exact kind of stories I want to emulate in my work. Second, they were amazingly compelling and well paced. In trying to think about why I loved them so much, one of the things I realized was that each of the main characters had very tangible, easy to understand goals.

I’ve always heard “know what your characters want,” and “every character needs a goal,” but I'm starting to recognize that up until now all of my characters’ goals and desires have been kind of... vague. And this is making my characters weaker than they could be.

Not that an abstract desire *can’t* be done well, but I’ve found that in the books I really enjoy, a more concrete goal makes for stronger motivation.

All this reminded me of a picture I’ve seen on the @litrejections twitter account:

What does this mean for my characters? It means that they can't just have a nebulous dream without anything attached to it (which is what they currently have). They need a PLAN. They need to have steps in mind for achieving said dream, and they need to try to get it. They can fail, and should fail a few times. And maybe their plan changes, or the goal shifts, but their motivation and forward movement should always be there.

That's what makes a story great, for me. A character who knows what they want, and goes after it.

And lucky me, I just got notes back from my critique partner on SUMMON, and while she didn’t say these things exactly, the notes she did give showed me that this was a huge issue. So I’m hoping I can fix this, and give my characters much more active roles in their stories.

Example:

Vague:
Jane wants to find her true love.
Specific:
Jane has a crush on John and asks him to the dance, studying for weeks on how to effectively flirt so he'll fall madly in love with her.

Vague:
Joe wants to make a difference in the world.
Specific:
Joe runs for office in his city with a detailed plan to improve things.

Vague:
Sara wants to be a doctor.
Specific:
Sara studies her butt off to get into medical school.

Vague:
Hank wants revenge.
Specific:
Hank plans for years until he comes up with the perfect plan to kill the man who murdered his wife.

I hope that makes sense. I've been writing for seven years and I'm only now starting to really understand how well-build characters are formed. This is only one aspect, but I think a very important one.

Anyway. Not a super long post, but something that’s been on my mind. What are your thoughts on character desires and motivation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

-DC

It's a Long Story

First of all, HA! to Past!Darci for thinking I'd be able to blog often when I was pregnant. But luckily I was able to vlog fairly regularly, and for some reason that's easier for me than typing up a post? So that's a thing.

Second, heads up, this is gonna be a looooong post and quite personal. So if that's not your jam, consider yourself warned.

***

Friends, I'd like to tell you a story. This is a story of me, my dreams, my goals, my hopes and my fears. I'm probably gonna get emotional, and I hope you don't mind, because the journey I've been on for the last seven years feels like it's finally reached its climax, and I only have the denouement left to go before I jump into the sequel.

Let's start back in 2011. March, to be precise. That month, I wrote what would be the first line of the first novel I would ever finish. I'd been blogging for fun for a while, and realized people kinda sorta liked what I had to say, and I'd always loved books, so why not try my hand at writing one?

What followed was a few months of me writing a page or two a week, until that September when I said to myself, "if I don't finish this thing soon, I never will." So in the course of a month I wrote the last 20,000 words, and I had finished my first novel. 

This is just one example of something writing would teach me about myself over the next five years: I have a "binge" personality. I'm a binger. I work most effectively when I can focus all my energy on one thing until I finish that thing. Whether it's drafting, revising, reading a novel, dishes, laundry, bathrooms, floors, making dinner... I do things best when I do them one at a time, usually in short, quick bursts.

So, in April 2016 we found out I was pregnant again. I'd had two miscarriages between that pregnancy and my last birth, so I was understandably nervous. That May I went to the Storymakers writing conference, and I had been ready to jump into querying again, but getting pregnant changed that. I realized that I wouldn't be able to fully focus on my writing career, my future in that arena, until I was totally done having kids.

Reminder: I'm a binger. I love my kids, and I want to be the best mom I can be for them. Having a baby requires an incredible amount of dedication of the physical, mental, and emotional variety. Before that pregnancy in 2016, my older boys were old enough that I could be a good mom and a focused writer. But adding more babies to the mix, I knew, would change the dynamic entirely. I needed my focus to be on my family for a time, and writing needed to be set aside.

This led me to thinking about my family, my future, and what I wanted for myself. I remember talking to Brandon during that pregnancy and asking him, with tears in my eyes, "Is it selfish of me to want to be done having kids so I can focus on my dreams?"

And, bless this wonderful man, he said, "Of course not."

So we talked about our family and how many kids we thought were waiting to join our family, (I won't go into detail on this but we're very spiritual people and believe our children were waiting to come to us) and we knew there was at least one more after the one I was carrying, possibly two. We decided then to just have those babies close together and get them all here as soon as possible, so we could get past the difficult times quickly, and be able to focus on raising these tiny humans.

And that is why, in July 2017, we announced another pregnancy. But there was a hitch: was this the last one, or not? I spent that pregnancy worrying about whether I was supposed to have another baby or not, and it was a cause of great stress for me. Brandon and I talked through it many times, but we could never quite come to a decision.

Baby Fuzz
It wasn't until Baby Fuzz was born at the beginning of this month that I knew: I was done. I needed to be done. My body and mind felt worn out, stretched thin. I told Brandon this, and he felt the same. As we were driving away from the hospital he jokingly said it felt like we had leveled-up somehow with this decision. Like a weight had been lifted, and we were entering a new stage of parenthood. Instead of adding children, we could now focus on raising them.

As this decision settles in, I find myself feeling many conflicting emotions. Relief, doubt, excitement, fear, anticipation, nerves. But overall is a sense of peace and hope, that now, soon, I will be able to focus on my writing again. And more specifically, my writing career.

So this post is meant to say a few things. That our family is finally complete, that I feel like my waiting stage is nearly over, and that when it comes to my writing career I hope I get to begin again soon. I know so many writers who can do both: be pregnant, have babies, and write and release books like it's their superpower, but that's not me. I'll spend this year focused on my babies, slowly getting back into my work, and before too long I'll be fully back in the game again.

Just to be clear: I love my family. I love my husband. I love my kids. I wouldn't be who I am without them. They love me, and they support me in all these decisions. And just because this was my journey, doesn't mean it'll be the same for others. I just hope that if there's another writer out there struggling the way I did, waiting, wondering, feeling down, that I can grant them a sliver of hope. It will all work out. Just keep dreaming, keep writing, keep moving forward. Your time will come.

Thanks for sticking around, guys <3
-DC

Light A Fire

HEY BLOGGER!

Does anyone still read blogs anymore? Who knows. But I figure this is as good a place as any to update the world on the doings of Darci Cole.

As you can probably see from the post history, it's been A While since I posted anything. It's been rough, and I'm just starting to work my way out of it. But now I'm back, and it feels good.

Update #1: I started a youtube series? Click HERE to check out the first (very rambly) video to find out more details about what I've been doing instead of blogging lately, and what the series will be about.

Update #2: I'm pregnant AGAIN? Yes. Again. Cole Baby #4 is due March 2nd, 2018, and we are so excited to meet him.

Update #3: I'm going to jump back into the query trenches soon! This lovely manuscript of mine has been patiently waiting for its final (I hope) revision before going in front of agents, and I'm super excited to see how it does.

Update #4: This blog. I won't be posting every day, but I'm gonna make a goal to post a couple times a month and talk about something I did in writing recently. The posts will probably be super short and very casual and not very edited (agents, please don't hate me) because I Do Not Have The Time to sit and hash out a 1000-word post on something deep and poignant AND also devote time to my manuscripts.

So that's my life in a nutshell right now. It's crazy, and stressful, and maddening sometimes, but I love it. And I feel like I'm finally back to my self after a very long and drudging hiatus.

It's good to be back.

-DC

Books and Pizza!!!!

Today is special for a couple of reasons...

1. It's National Pizza Day, which by itself is awesome.

2. It's release day for A PIZZA MY HEART!

In case you don't follow me on other social media platforms, allow me to explain: A PIZZA MY HEART is a pizza-themed anthology of short stories for Young Adults, and I am lucky enough to have a story of my own included!

There are a lot of pretty snazzy authors contributing, so you really should check it out. PLUS, it's ON SALE for two more weeks! For only 99 cents you can have a kindle copy of your very own.


BLURB:

Gooey cheese and warm pepperoni, with a side of kissing and murder.
A Pizza My Heart is a quirky and fun anthology that crosses all genres. Fifteen extraordinary authors have united to tell stories of mystery, mayhem, romance, danger, deceit…and pizza.
Sometimes spicy, sometimes cheesy, but always delicious, A Pizza My Heart invites you to explore life, happiness, and the pursuit of pizza.

Add it on Goodreads, purchase it on Amazon, and after reading please leave a review!

Publisher and editor is Jolene Haley with Hocus Pocus & Co. Check out their website.

Cover art by the amazing Haley Crosby, whose artwork you can see more of HERE.

****************

Thank you for supporting authors and creators! Go grab the anthology and a pizza and have a fantastic Pizza Day!

-DC

First Impressions

For whatever reason, lately I've been kind of obsessed by these tv talent show auditions--specifically the blind auditions on The Voice. I've always loved them but only recently have I started wondering why they fascinate me. I've come to a few conclusions, and I want to talk a little about what they have in common with publishing.

Have what it takes?
First of all, I love to watch the dynamic we see between an aspiring performer and the entertainment professionals. I've wondered how can they possibly know whether someone has what it takes in only a 90-second audition? I was an aspiring singer throughout high school, I have a solid knowledge of music, and despite having to do auditions like this many times myself I still wondered this.

While watching a string of blind auditions for The Voice the other night I decided to try it. I would keep my eyes closed and just listen, then only open my eyes when I felt like--if I were a coach--I would turn my chair. It was interesting to me that sometimes I "turned" super early, and other times I matched one or more of the judges, and yet others just didn't interest me enough.

First of all, this shows just how subjective art is. Second, the more I listened the more I was able to recognize what I liked in a voice and what I didn't, who was trained or experienced and who wasn't, and who had the *spark* and who didn't. Ninety seconds is not much time to show off your abilities, but these professionals know their craft, and they know what they're looking for.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Agents and editors in the publishing industry are the same as these judges on The Voice. They see hundreds of "auditions" every day in the form of queries and first pages. They know what they like, they know what they're looking for, and they can tell--sometimes within a sentence or two--which submissions have what it takes.

Show Off
Sometimes a singer will come on a show and audition with a song that just doesn't fit them. And the judges can always tell. Sometimes they can sense there's talent, but it's not the best performance. For the performer, that's frustrating. It's hard to know sometimes how best to showcase yourself. The same holds true for writers. It's why we absolutely must surround ourselves with *other* writers. People who--as closely as we can get--mimic those judges, the agents and editors, and can give us the feedback necessary to know how to showcase our talents within a query and first page.

Sometimes the judges/agents pick people with FLAWLESS performances/pages, other times they choose people who obviously need work but have amazing potential. Again, they can tell. Why? Because they are constantly taking in so much content of so much variety. It's one of the biggest reasons writers are told to read so much. We have to gain at least some level of knowledge as to what works and what doesn't so we can be our best.

Sharing
There are some moments where you can see the judges looking to one of them in particular to press their button, because they know that person will be the best judge for that person. Agents do this too, sharing submissions with their colleagues when they feel like that person will be a better fit. Other times, agents fight tooth and nail for a writer, just like the judges do on the show.

Watch this audition and see (starting at about 1:45) how much the judges fight for Wé McDonald to join their team.


I mean, the one advantage we have as writers is that we can ask for a week to decide if we have multiple agents offering representation. *wink* Regardless, you want someone who will fight for you like those judges did for her. You want someone you connect with the way Alicia Keys did with Wé.

Passion
Agents, like these judges, are very selective about the books and people they take on. As John M. Cusick says in this post, agents aren't looking for good books. They're looking for something they love too much to NOT represent it. They're looking for manuscripts and writers they can champion.

These are the special auditions that are not only great enough to get the judge to turn around, but also showcase a performer unique and special enough once seen that they impresses all of America and succeed throughout the competition. That special something, that spark, is what the judges--and agents--are looking for. They take on the singers/writers/manuscripts they truly believe in, and they work with them to make them the best they can be.

Watch this video of Jordan Smith singing "Somebody to Love." He ended up being the 2015 winner, but this performance came during the middle of the competition. Throughout this performance, Jordan's coach, Adam Levine, is cheering him on. But watch how at the end, from about 3:10-3:43, Levine's enthusiasm really comes out. You can see how insanely proud he is of Jordan, how excited he is that the song went well, and--I think--happy to see Jordan succeeding and having fun while he does it.



I can PROMISE you, this is how AwesomeAgents feel when their clients succeed. I had the opportunity to sit with a group of writers and agent Jen Rofé at Storymakers in 2015. We talked genre, and books we loved. Hearing Jen talk about her clients' work was incredible. She was animated, excited, eager, and sometimes speechless with pride for the work she represented.

I'm planning to start querying again in the next couple of months. Fellow writers, we only get a query or a few pages to show what we can do. We need to make the most of it. Work at it, read a lot, get feedback, practice your query the way a singer would for an audition--try different things, arrange words in different ways and see what works for you, what makes you feel confident. The agent or editor you're querying will absolutely know whether (a) you've got what it takes or not and (b) whether they'll love your work or not, based on how you arrange those few hundred words.

Don't take it for granted. Enjoy it. Good luck.

-DC
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