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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gotcha where I want ya


My mini-van has become one of my greatest tools. It's like the ace up my sleeve. When all other plans fall through, I know I always have my black mini-van.

No matter how crazy a day I have, or how many tasks I've left unchecked on my 'To Do' lists, I know I can always find refuge and clarity in my mini-van. Allow me to explain.

As I've mentioned before I have four children and I often struggle to find one on one time with them. The day slips through my fingers and I am tucking them into bed before I know it. The other day I loaded all of my kids in the van, but once everyone was buckled, I realized that we had left a half an hour earlier than planned. Rather than unload the entire family, I decided that we'd just sit. Just sit in the mini-van for the entire thirty minutes.

It was fantastic. For thirty minutes, my children were my captive audience. My two-year-old wasn't getting into the fingernail polish, my toddler was holding still (by a safety belt, but still ...), and I actually had a few minutes to visit with my two oldest girls. I learned so much and we actually had a great 'family' moment. Since that fortuitous day, I have held many family counsels and visits in the 'mini-van'.

I'm now working through plot lines and characters for my second book. It's all still very much in the cosmos at the moment, and I've struggled with pinning it all down and getting my ducks in a row. In short, I knew I needed a 'mini-van' moment. And so I did it.

I imagined my four main characters, stuck in my mini-van with me for thirty minutes. I asked them the same questions I asked my kids.

-What's their favorite song?
-What do they struggle with right now?
-What are they afraid of?
-What was the best thing that happened to them today?
-Who's their favorite teacher (or mentor)?
-Who's their hero?
-What do they want to be when they grow up?
-When all their jobs are done, what's their favorite thing to do?
-What details or tidbits about them get lost in the shuffle? What things do I miss because I'm too busy?
-What's something they learned today?

It's amazing how my characters fleshed out all on their own. This little mental exercise really helped me slow things down and allowed me some much needed 'one-on-one' time with my characters. Knowing more about them: their motivations, needs, fears, etc. gave my story structure and set some key points in place. I still have a long ways to go, but this definitely got the ball rolling for me.

Do any of you have a 'mini-van' tool? What do you do to pull your story out of the vague cosmos and get it down on paper? Where do you begin? How do you establish structure? I'm all ears!!

--Sara Bulla

10 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

This was fantastic! I've heard some great stories when it comes to mini-van. It's actually where author Claire Cook wrote her first novel. I guess characters like the solitude and small space.

Love fabulous family moments!

Angie Cothran said...

Love this Sara :) Sometimes I talk to my characters like I was their therapist. Some are willing and some are not. I love your tip!

Melissa Sarno said...

I love this! I am going to have some mini-van moments. I use, what I call, the 'I'm going to tell you a story' tool. I just let my characters tell me a story. Any story. And I just write it like they would a journal or something. I think I may use these mini-van questions to learn a little more about them though. Very cool.

Deana said...

Wow Sara, I have to say I love this idea! There is nothing like the seatbelts to keep the kids about face:)And what a cool idea for your characters too.

Angela Felsted said...

I have a station wagon, so we're a bit more cramped than you. And I've tried to talk with my kids in their car, but they don't behave as well as your I guess. My four year old is a tornado.

But you're right about spending time with our characters. Unlike kids, they don't always complain that I'm embarrassing them if I give them a kiss while waiting for the school bus.

Abby said...

This is awesome! You are such a good mom. I like this idea. I did something similar, but forgot to include the mini van. I did want to know all those questions about my characters though. The more I know the better. :)

Angela Brown said...

What a wonderful way to give a mini-van multi-purpose. Awesome!

A.J. Mullarky said...

Hehe, what an excellent idea!

Sara Bulla said...

Jen: I'll definitely check out her book. I know that movie, Must Love Dogs...but I'm not familiar with her other work. Thanks for the tip!

Angie: I remember that post! I'm going to try that as well! Thanks for the reminder!

Melissa: I love the 'tell me a story' idea. I'm going to give that a whirl! Thanks for commenting.

Deana: Yeah, the seat belts are my secret weapon. It would be utter chaos otherwise! :)

Angela: Ha! I love that you embarrass your kids. It is kind of nice that our characters reactions in no way afflict us. Very cool!

Abby: I totally agree. Knowledge is power and I love that this exercise opened a few hidden doors into my Character's lives. I hope it works for you too!

Angela B: Indeed! It has endeared it to me. I now wield it as a useful tool! :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Those are great questions, Angie. My oldest artist (and aspiring author) son is working on a book cover for me. He asked me what actors I'd imagined might play my two main characters. Um, I hadn't. I realized I knew the love interest's eye color but not the mc. lol I think I need to have a chat with them. =D

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