Reply To: Student: Vicki Briner Homework Thread

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Linnea Sinclair

What I like about this opening (and the story as a whole) is Charlotte. She’s daring, impulsive, witty and funny. She’s also earnest, which I find endearing. Looking at the opening on it’s own, I immediately like her spunk, and for some reason I care that this man like her also. I think what makes my brain crave more is the fact that he’s clearly amused by her (as am I as the reader) and I want the banter between the two to continue. So I guess the WHAT is the interaction between the two characters, and the fact that emotionally I’m rooting for Charlotte. 

I agree. I like her too. I like her spunk, her ability to think on her feet, her self-preservation. And since the reader BECOMES the MC… we like her because we want people to like us as we are her… and round and round the psyche goes. 😉

Of the Fourteen, I identified:
-A need or motive: She is on a mission to “save” this man from her mother.
-Question: Why has embarked on this mission?
-Character’s thoughts: She is working up her nerve to approach a man she shouldn’t approach.

Question for you: In this lesson, you said you thought Hague’s ideas were better suited for overall structure. I’m curious, though, how much importance you put on the three key ways to create empathy, i.e. create sympathy, put them in danger, make them likable and kind.

Definitely: Why  is she on this mission and approaching someone she shouldn’t? That little description could fit a lot of stories in a lot of genres… which should tell us something. It works. We societally tend to root for the underdog. We tend to admire the risk-taker, especially a self-less one (or–if motives are somewhat self-preserving, then at least others are also helped).

I do think Hague’s ideas are less useful for pinpointing flavors of OPENINGS. I find they’re very useful overall to writing a story.

the three key ways to create empathy, i.e. create sympathy, put them in danger, make them likable and kind.

I think author Donna MacMeans did them better. I teach to her list (which isn’t openings but overall characterization), in my No More Mary Sues characterization class. But as my regular inmates know, Linnea never teaches JUST one topic in any class because any part of the craft of writing is infiltrated by all sorts of other parts of the craft of writing.

Some openings are more character-oriented, some are more action-oriented, some are more settings-oriented, some are one from column A and one from column B, and some…

Well, that’s my whole point of this class. Learn what kinds of openings, and what THINGS inside those opening scenes and chapters, resonate strongly–and I do mean STRONGLY–with you. Then… write to that flavor. Or learn to use that kind of flavor with another that resonates with you and create a new flavor.

Here’s the link to Donna’s “Rooting Interests” (aka The Other HEA) list:

I highly recommend it as one more thing to add to your toolbox in creating characters, and for items to consider when moving a character through the paragraphs in your opening scene and chapter. In my characterization workshop, we get to use this list in more depth.

PS: I first heard Donna speak on her ‘Other HEA’ list years ago at an RWA chapter conference. She gleaned these traits from reading dozens of romance novels and then (she’s a real-life CPA) she put them all into a spreadsheet and then cross-charted THAT with the authors who used those traits in their books and cross-charted THAT with their NYT best selling ranking (and that kind of thing). She also did a similar spreadsheet based on those traits in Golden Heart winning first chapters. Honest. She did. I don’t even know how to open a spreadsheet. I live in slack-jawed amazement at that woman…

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//


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