Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writer's Wednesday: Off Kilter

PHS Columnist and Harlequin Historical author Nicole Locke asks - How do you find your characters' centre of gravity?

Warning: Don’t read this while eating lunch.

What is your centre of gravity? I’ll admit this question never popped into my mind until I tried to take the kids to see the Mademoiselle Prive’ exhibit and failed. We didn’t leave on time, accidentally left behind the required food for the tube ride and the queue was 150 people deep.
Yet, with aplomb, we grabbed sandwiches and went to the Science Museum, where there’s 3000 children and we’ve been 1000 times. But I’m flexible; I’m rolling with the day’s punches. There’s no culture or civilized lunch, but it’s still fun, and even better, I have a seat next to the massive pulley pebble system. In fact, I’m feeling quite smug having saved this day.
Big Machine
Then…and then. A little boy next to my daughter got a big mouthful of pebbles. I don’t know what he was doing looking up with his mouth open, but it was a shock to him and to me. After all, I had a ring side seat to what happened next. That the child produced the amount of saliva and slime only a hagfish could be proud of. Then, without reservation, he hurled said salvia and trapped pebbles back into the pulley system’s trough.
More, oh, there’s more. As thick strings of salvia continue to trail from his mouth to the intricately tubed system (that no amount of cleaning will help now), the 50 children witnessing this marvel: Just Keep Playing. With their bare hands, they scoop the ever-growing pebbled smear into a bucket that will release it throughout the system, and to the other children.
Now, I’m not squeamish. I can take blood, eyeball poking and cleaning other children’s vomit from carpet. But something about this mucus-y event is just the straw to my camel. I’m no longer rolling with the punches. In fact, I’m reeling.
Then I see this sign: What is Your Centre of Gravity?
At that moment, I wasn’t sure. I thought I knew myself, but clearly, I have some hidden heebie-jeebies depths. So, taking the sign as a Sign, I went to investigate:
I loved this definition that our body’s centre of gravity is somewhere above our waist. Which begs this question: Is that centre the gut or the heart? Can a person’s centre of gravity be knocked over by something that happens emotionally or physically?
To get to the HEA in writing, you have to know your characters centre of gravity. What it is, what will knock them off and how to get it back. If their centre is family, the punch to their axis could be something emotional like abandonment. If their centre is looks/strength, it could be physical, like a lost limb. When you write romances, trust and love will return the centre to your characters.
But what if it’s a villain, and you want him permanently off kilter? My current series has a villain, but I can’t find his centre of gravity to knock him off of. First, he eats daggers for breakfast, so he won’t be affected by a physical punch, but can I give him an emotional one?
It’s difficult. He’s been betrayed by the only person he trusted. Yet, instead of kneeling in the dirt to die, he intends to betray and kill her. Oh, and did I mention she’s his daughter? Yeah, I think this guy chews emotional daggers as well.

So what’s this guy’s centre and what will knock him off it? I don’t know, and I’ve been plotting the series for months. But I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be like that wad of spit, sudden and unexpected. Something simple, messy and unclean-upable.
In the meantime, I have to anchor myself to the keyboard, be like the kids, who have seen all the sliminess of life before and just keep playing.

Oh, and by the way:

 Her Enemy Highlander, out now, is book two in the Lovers and Legends series. To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

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