Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 7, 2008

Ordering a Wider Span of Color Samples

–Beauty, I mutter to myself as I drive the dogs to the vets.
–Beauty, I tell myself as I go to bed.
–More beauty, I remind myself at the computer.

I’m writing about a protagonist with lots of problems, not a bad thing, but I’m afraid she’s too lonely on the page. Even her mother and father and most certainly her brothers seem out to get her. There’s conflict, but is there enough joy? The manuscript feels like a painting with some colors missing.

So I set my one-word direction in my brain and wait for actions and images to cluster around it. What does my girl want? Can’t I give her some taste of it sooner than the end of the book? Yes. I see that she and her mom can have a little more than I let them have before. They’re talking, they’re laughing, and I think that will make the gulf that opens between them soon enough seem even wider.



  1. I like this. This was a good reminder for when I get my characters into a bad place without giving them a break. Thanks for sharing this and nudging my process, too.

  2. I’m glad to have company muttering to my characters. I guess we can’t leave everyone in the rubble of the holes we dig around them forever. Hope your digging journey is going well and you come out to breathe fresh air just often enough.

  3. Great post, Jeannine. I like dark novels (and even some dark picture books), but I confess to not liking bleakness. Big difference between dark and bleak. Congrats on getting your brain to follow directions–wish mine would!

  4. I like your distinction between dark and bleak. That crack of light coming through.
    Well, my brain follows directions.. sometimes. There’s a lot of balking involved (notice directions get repeated). Good luck with yours!

  5. I like your idea of sending yourself to sleep with the one-word thought of what your story needs. And I think in the first draft its easy to get off in the balance–either too much focus on the protag alone or sort of leaving her in the background and filling the pages up with what everyone else is doing.
    The interactions are, for me, what make stories fascinating–how different characters play off each other, the kinds of reactions they cause, etc…
    I feel so bad for this girl that her brothers are all against her, but I think, with your story, it has to be. And I know she’s going to show them all. 🙂

  6. Thanks for caring about a story that you, and nobody else, has yet read! I am working on a scene where one of the brothers shows a different face to E. when they are alone together, then retracts in public. Oh, lying. We’ve got to make them do it, right?

  7. Oh, that’s so good. The brother that, if maybe it were only him or there weren’t so much riding on his choices, might, just might be able to be a friend, but not strong enough. Lying as weakness. Definitely.

  8. I love clustering for problems like this and I hope your character can attached herself to some of the ideas you came up with. I tend to go all gloom and doom myself and it is good to remember to lift the reader up.

  9. I alternate now in commanding myself — beauty, plot, beauty, plot — and something is happening. We’ll see a few months down the road.
    There is so much beauty in Hugging the Rock. Your paring and word rhythms and images certainly lift the reader, no matter the subject. That’s the kind of thing I aim for.

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