Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday Talk-Time - NaNoWriMo and Sweat with Sven

This Thursday, Blaze author Alison Kent tells us why she's able to get on the NaNo bandwagon...all because of visualization....

It's November. Meaning it's National Novel Writing Month. If you're unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it's an annual writing challenge during which participants sign up to write 50K words in 30 days. eHarlequin runs their own NaNoWriMo challenge, one allowing participants to write lesser - or greater - amounts.Sven Says Sweat And on the 10th of this month, the 4th round of the 70 Days of Sweat writing challenge begins. Sven wants to see participants write between 60K and 100K in 70 days. He's a harsh taskmaster.

I like the idea of a challenge, of sharing the fun - and the misery - of getting the words on the page every day. I love the camaraderie, the knowing I'm not out here toiling alone.Kiss & Tell I don't know how it works at the official NaNo site, but at the eHarlequin challenge, participants are able (not required) to post their favorite line of the day, along with their total words written. (My first one: "And you've got a dozen testicles calling your name.")

All of that said, the only reason I'm able to come out and play is because I've seen my characters long before I've started writing their romance.Character Notes The story I'm working on now is one I've had in my head for over a year. No, I don't know everything about it, but when my editor asked me last summer to be part of her Texas Ranger miniseries at Harlequin Blaze, I started thinking of what I wanted to write.

Now a year and a bit later, I'm working on the book. I know the main plot, I've jotted notes on a few scenes that will get me from one act to the next, and I've worked out a few details on my people - age, occupation, co-workers, family members. (Here's the actual page where I worked out those tidbits.) It's not much, right? But since I discover my characters as I write them, at this point that's really all I need to know.Darren Sharper as Roman Greyle

Except it's not.

I need to see them. Literally see them. And this is where my most valuable writing tool comes in. Model management and modeling agency Websites. You see, I can't use pictures of actors, or anyone famous because when I see them, I don't see my characters. I see, well, them. The actor. The sports figure. Granted, Maximum Exposurethere are exceptions; I used Minnesota Vikings' Darren Sharper as one of the characters in my upcoming Brava MAXIMUM EXPOSURE (look at that smile!). And I used Brian Dennehy as a supporting character in NO LIMITS, my May '09 Brava release. Those I'm able to use because either I'm not familiar with them (Sharper) or it's someone who fits the role like nobody else (Dennehy).

Think of it this way. Anyone here familiar with the TV show "ThatFinn McLain 70's Show?" Other than Kurtwood Smith (Red) and Don Stark (Bob), and maybe Debra Jo Rupp (Kitty), did you know any of those actors before they played Eric or Donna or Fez or Hyde or Jackie or Foreman? You recognize Ashton Kutcher now, but when "That 70's Show" first aired in 1998, he was not a household name; even now when I see his Nikon commercials, I see Kelso, not Kutcher. To me, Topher Grace will always be Eric. Laura Prepon will always be Donna. Wilmer Valderrama will always be Fez. Those are the characters I associate with those faces. And because the actors gave such life to those characters, there's no way I could use them as my story people.

I may think Olivia HammondGerard Butler is gorgeous, but to me he'll always be Creedy in Reign of Fire, the first movie I remember seeing him in. Colin Firth will always be Mr. Darcy (or Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary). Michael Vartan will always be Michael Vaughn (though I will admit to using Bradley Cooper as a secondary character once). My current obsession is Kevin McKidd. He's on Grey's Anatomy now, but I still call him Lucius Vorenus because that's how he's imprinted in my mind.

To get around this quirk of mine, I use photos ripped from ads in magazines, or models I find at Websites. Finn McLain, the main hero in MAXIMUM EXPOSURE, along with Caleb McGregor and Miranda KellyJodi Fontaine (the couple in KISS & TELL) all came from SMGModels. Olivia and Jodi, the primary and secondary female protagonists in MAXIMUM EXPOSURE, were both ripped out of a copy of O Magazine. In the Texas Ranger story I'm working on now, Kell came from SMG, and since the site gives the models' names, I did a Google search and also found him at Maximum Talent. Same with Jamie, my current heroine. I found her at SMG and I've also used Ford Models, Trump Models, and 62 Models.

I don't need to know my characters' favorite foods, favorite colors, best or worst childhood memories or shoe size before I start to write. But I must, I absolutely must be able to see them, ergo the foam board hanging on the wall by my desk with the magazine pages or pictures printed from Websites. And, yeah, my husband learned to get over it. After all, I hang hot women along with my hot men!


  1. Oh good...I have until the 10th to Sven...I'm getting a late start on my NaNo, so now I can say I'm waiting for Sven...

  2. LOL, Jenna! Good luck if you do sign up!

  3. I will eventually participate in NaNoWriMo. My hope is that next year will be the year for me. But we'll see where I am at the point. Like you, the idea of challenges is appealing to me because there are other people sharing it with you.

    As for the visuals, using actual pictures sounds like a great way to actually see your characters. It must be nice to look at them while you're writing their story.

  4. Hi, Karin

    When I used to work with a crit group that met weekly, those were the challengers who helped me meet my goals. Now I write without them, but I still enjoy getting nudged and pushed!