Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meeting Maggie

Not entirely accurate for me; I'd say she's a good acquaintance by now. It has become clear to me that Course Corrections is an important journey for her, so she's got to take center stage.

Maggie McBride heads up a jailbreak, to put it simply. Organizes, oversees, and puts her neck on the line for both the funding and to pull it off. Sounds obvious that she should be the MC, right? Well, in my previous novel Shen and Lena were the MCs and they are in this story too. Maybe they're co-MCs, maybe they're major supporting characters. They gave me enough structure to write what I've got so far, but now I need to unwrap my brain from them and bring Maggie into focus.

I also need to bring Val up to focus, too, more on that as we go.

First question is: what kind of person does this kind of thing?

Organizes a jail break? Going to need drive, organization, attention to detail, huge amounts of confidence and acting ability, and relevant skill sets.

Here's why it's her story: Maggie starts out with charisma, acting ability, and drive. Learns the rest, most importantly the confidence. Skill sets she can hire. Money she can get (with strings attached). Leadership... that, she's learning. She's very young, only twenty, and she got a head start but there's a long way to go.

Next question: what can I bring to the table?

Not a lot, really. All my characters contain bits of me, but Maggie is one of my least-like-me characters. I know a bit about being obsessive. I have experience with the emotions that are contributing to her drive -- anger, pain, abandonment.

Next question: how is this character not like me?

See above. I am not charismatic. I've never been in a position of authority, never given orders. Let alone orders that could get people hurt. Maggie's going to stretch my horizons, guaranteed.

Next question: Any homework I need to do?

First book I went to was The 48 Laws of Power, which I read long ago and still refer to.  This book can tell me what Maggie needs to be in an ideal situation. She's not in an ideal situation, of course. She can't be a perfect leader. But at least I know what direction to go in.

Here's an unexpected bit of homework that helped me when I was starting to see Maggie emerge as the MC: in the commentary track of The Simpsons Movie, the creators talked about how Homer Simpson is not a lovable character. The more you think about him, the less lovable he is. And yet we put up with him. Why? They pointed out that it's because Marge loves him. Marge is a good and highly sympathetic character.

So here's my transference of that lesson. Maggie is young, inexperienced, and probably has bitten off more than she can chew with this jailbreak. Why do we have faith in her? Because Val has faith in her.

Val -- Valentin -- is the guy she's with. He's got to be Marge, here. He's got to be a true blue nice guy. Which is easier to write, in fact, though he will need a little mussing up so he's not unbelievably perfect... c'mere, Val, lemme muss you up a bit... won't hurt, I promise... :D

The other thing I need to get a handle on is charisma. Charm. Making friends and influencing people. Wait, I think we have a copy of that around here somewhere...

How do you create charming characters? Or any character that's not much like you?

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