IN A FIX Week Continues With A License Plate, A Voice, and A Story!

Happy IN A FIX week! Awww, the final Deb Debut of the year… it’s beginning to feel like the end of camp around here. Sniff, sniff…

Luckily for us, we’re going out with a bang (and since we’re talking about Linda here, you can read that however you want) with the fun, feisty Ciel Halligan, whose voice is so strong I just had to ask about it!

You once said that Ciel came to you when you saw her name on a vanity license plate, and her voice just popped into your head and started speaking to you. For me, a great strong voice doesn’t always come with a great strong plot — was that your experience, or did Ciel have her whole story all fleshed out from the get go? And if not, how did you go from strong voice to great, compelling plot? (Not that I’m struggling with the exact same thing myself… uh… just asking for a friend!)

Yeah, weird as it sounds, that license plate story is the truth. It happened when we were hauling our son back to college. I glanced over into the the next lane, saw the vanity plate, and Ciel popped into my head. I could see her. And I knew she had this odd ability … okay, yes, I know that sounds wackadoo. But seriously, it was like she was already there, just waiting for the right time to show herself.

She started talking almost immediately, and would not shut up. In first person, which isn’t (er, make that wasn’t) my usual style. She was all “I” this and “I” that, and when I tried to squeeze her into a third person limited POV, she closed her mouth and refused to speak. Well, by that time, I reeeally wanted to know what she had to say, so I gave in and let her have it her way.

Re the compelling plot (thanks for that, btw!): This is going to sound odd for a person who writes fairly complicated plots, but to me “plot” is just a tool for revealing character. I can’t really separate them. It’s kind of like how astrophysicists will talk about “spacetime” as a single continuum, instead of two distinct things. (Why, yes, I am a nerd. I read books on quantum mechanics for fun. Don’t understand everything I read, mind you, but I still like it. *grin*) Anyway, since plot is just, basically, what a character does, and a character has to do something in order to exist … well, neither can exist in a vacuum. For me, anyway. As the character grows, so grows the plot, and vice-versa.

That’s a roundabout way of saying I suspect the plot was there in my head somewhere, just like Ciel, but until I sat down and started listening to her I didn’t know what it was. So no outlines for me. The plot, as an intrinsic part of the character, only comes to me as I get to know the character.

Now, aren’t you sorry you asked?



Deb Linda is giving away signed ARCs of IN A FIX to one of our commenters (US and Canada only, please). To enter today, tell us what comes first for you — voice or story?


18 Replies to “IN A FIX Week Continues With A License Plate, A Voice, and A Story!”

  1. Thanks, Molly. I can’t believe our tenure is almost up, either. Wow, this past year has just whizzed by! When we first started my launch seemed so far away, and now here it is breathing down my neck. Eek!

  2. Linda, I love this idea of plot as a tool to define character–I never thought of it that way but it’s so true! They are utterly inseparable, and speaking as someone who has always struggled with plotting, I think this concept is utterly enlightening. So often plots feel contrived maybe for the very reason that they aren’t organic to the character’s journey?

    Not to get too philosophical before nine on a Wednesday, or anything…;)

    1. I suspect you’re right about plots feeling contrived when they don’t resonate with the characters. I really think you can go almost anywhere with a plot as long as it doesn’t leave the reader thinking, uh-uh, that character would never do that!

      Re Hump Day early morning philosophy: Drink more coffee and try not to examine it too closely. 😉

  3. I think this is precisely why I struggled so mightily when asked to provide a synopsis *before* starting to write the sequel to BETWEEN. How can I come up with a plot line before I know how my characters are going to grow and respond to the rocks I throw at them? Isn’t it Stephen King who said to get your characters up in a tree early in the story and throw rocks at them? And watch them figure out how to get down? Every character is going to handle that scenario differently. Anyway – however she came to you – Ciel does certainly have a voice of her own.

    1. Ugh. I feel for you. I haven’t yet had to provide a synopsis before I’ve written at least the first three-quarters of a book. I don’t think I could do it very easily.

      I love that Stephen King advice. Yeah, I definitely have to put my characters in a tight spot in order to learn enough about them to SEE what happens next.

  4. Ohhh, I like that, too: plot as a tool to define character. I’m usually looking at it the other way around, but I like this perspective…Hmmmm. I love how we continue to learn from each other!

    I’ll join you in champagne, Erika. Hair of the dog and all. 😉

    Congrats again, Linda! WOO HOO.

  5. Linda, I think you and I were separated at birth. I’m in total agreement – until I hear my characters’ voices, I don’t know what they’ll do. I tried plotting a couple of times, but then my characters went and did something entirely different than I expected and I had to change the plot anyway.

    And it’s much more fun to just sit back and watch the story unfold. 🙂

    1. We were probably the twins clinking beer bottles in utero. 😉

      And, yeah on the fun part. If I know what’s going to happen too soon, I get bored. I want to be surprised.

  6. Wow, Linda. I am amazed by the way Ciel spoke to you. Since I don’t write fiction, I think for me it’s more like my inner voice talking to myself… or something… but I love this concept. And if some character spoke to me that strongly, perhaps I WOULD write fiction! I love In a Fix week!

  7. The whole idea of a full-blown character popping into your head and then talking to you is fascinating. (I want some of whatever it was you were drinking on that trip!) Seriously, I hope she keeps on talking to you for a long, long time.

    1. LOL! Bottled water? That’s my drink of choice in the car.

      Ciel hasn’t shown any sign of shutting up yet, so I’m hoping she’ll stick around for a while.

  8. Perfect question – thanks Molly. I’m also exactly in this spot right now. Great characters in my head, trouble finding the plot.

    Perfect answer – thanks Linda. Gonna put this in the clever quotes section of my own blog soon just cause I don’t want to lose it: “…to me “plot” is just a tool for revealing character. I can’t really separate them…Anyway, since plot is just, basically, what a character does, and a character has to do something in order to exist … well, neither can exist in a vacuum. For me, anyway. As the character grows, so grows the plot, and vice-versa.”

    Follow-up question: Are you a pantser or at least a person who doesn’t follow one of the structures we are ‘supposed’ to follow as novelists? I ask because I have struggled trying to follow one and am now set to learn another.

    1. Judy, I’m glad if my answer is helpful. 🙂

      Take a look at the Thursday post this week (Deb Rachel’s) for my answer to the pressing plotter or pantser question. (And also the equally pressing Billy or Mark question. *grin*)

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