I’ve been using the reference texts produced by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglise for longer than I can remember. Once they introduced One Stop for Writers, there was no going back to gazing out the window searching for inspiration. I may have the ‘writing gene’, like other members in my family, but inspiration does not always come easily. Or it’s stale and unimaginative. This double whammy of writer resources has solved almost all of my technical/craft-type problems. Unfortunately, they can’t get me into my seat with my fingers pressed to the keyboard, laying down pages of attention-grabbing words.
Instead, I sneak a chunk of time here and there and frantically try to capture a new scene, plot point or character study in between other things. But here’s where it gets even more interesting. Tools, tools and more tools!
My female protagonist is called Kenora Tedesco. In the first novel of my series, Kenora Reinvented, she’s 42 years old, reeling from her mother’s sudden death, her husband’s philandering and losing her boring but reliable job because she could no longer bite her tongue about what she saw as injustice. My task was to make her relatable (after having been told by a prospective agent to write her younger), keep her adventures and mis-adventures exciting, then add some second-chance hot romance (because…why not?). Showing what she was going through was critical for me and for her.
Enter the Character Motivation Tool and I was off to the races.
Avoiding Financial Ruin – she had the cash from the sale of the matrimonial home, but nowhere to call her own. Her old car was on its last legs. She was stuck in a series of temp jobs. Of course she’s motivated. Not desperate yet.
Discovering One’s True Self – she’d always acted the way she thought other people wanted. Good daughter, good wife, good mother, good manager. Moderate your emotions. Don’t confront. Get along. And where did that get her? Houseless, unemployed and almost broke. BUT – and this is huge for Kenora and many women – she had the opportunity to be who she really was. The woman she’d kept under wraps all those years. Which led her/me to…
Finding One’s Purpose, Forgiving Oneself and Gaining Control Over One’s Own Life – the Trifecta of Adulting. Instead of easing into that in her early twenties, Kenora is facing those challenges as she’s on the cusp of middle age. There’s no playbook, is there, so she has to make mistakes as she learns to make better decisions. So what if her purpose isn’t ‘saving the world’, but saving herself and fighting for what she believes in? That still counts, especially because it’s damned hard to do it right. She learns to stop blaming herself for things that went wrong in her life. She gained control by opening her eyes and moving from the dimness of confirming and compromising into the light of independence. In a way, she has to be broken before she could truly start over.
Proving Someone Wrong, Pursuing Mastery and Surviving Loss are all related. Kenora is motivated to prove herself to herself, and to all the naysayers from her past who’d not believe her capable. Sticking with that motivation was difficult because at first, she failed as much as she succeeded. Standing up for what she wanted made her stronger, though. Kenora stopped being so fearful nd discovered she could make her own success, small step by small step.
The too-well-dressed owner of the industrial waste collection company she temped at made overtures, but when she shared how renovations for her newly purchased lakefront fixer-upper would drive her to the poorhouse, he overlooked her rejection and gave her a list of off-the-books contractors who owed him favours. Were his motives pure? Were the workers who only took cash legit? Getting her draughty windows and sagging roof replaced wasn’t the moral issue it might once have been, when Kenora had other choices.
Wanting to succeed and having to succeed to survive are great motivators. During her third interview for a job as a trainee private investigator, Kenora doesn’t just pour on the charm, she markets her skills, experience and maturity. Why? She wants that job. And her skeptical future boss isn’t hard to look at, either. Yes, he hires her. And another cycle of challenges begins. But more on that in another post.
At the end of the novel, Kenora rescues herself (read the book to find out how). Sure, I wrote the story, but I relied on knowing my character well, in part because of the resources Angela and Becca have created. The depth of support available from One Stop for Writers helped keep me on track!
The annual subscription has been a hugely valuable investment in my writing. By the way, you can sign up for a free two-week trial. Go do that right now!