Last weekend I had the good fortune to spend time with MaryLogue and Gene Yang, MFAC faculty members past and present. Both were in Eau
Claire to be part of the annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival.
university campus, Mary was doing the same at our public library. I sat in on
Mary’s session, “Cozy vs. Noir,” in which she talked about the differences in
the various forms of mystery novels.
together, and as said project is turning out to be a space opera murder mystery,
I was an attentive listener in the room.
it’s always stayed with me: When imagining the protagonist of what would turn
into her Claire Watkins mystery series, she knew she would make her a mother
because she “wanted her to be vulnerable.”
hard to identify how our protagonists are vulnerable—it comes with the
territory of being young. Nevertheless, everyone has a specific vulnerability,
and identifying it, as Mary did for her heroine, and working it can be a terrific plot and character developer.
have generally been emotionally and financially secure young women, and, for
the sake of the plot, that very security is their vulnerability. How does a
character behave when something is lost, either by accident or of her/his own
doing? What’s the difference? How about when something is taken away?
chaplain would invariably end services or other gatherings with his favorite
benediction: “Comfort the troubled and trouble the comfortable.”
good writing advice.
Marsha Qualey is the author of several young adult novels, including Just Like That, Too Big of a Storm, One Night, and Close to a Killer. Her books have appeared on numerous best-of-the-year lists, including ALA Quick Picks, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, IRA Readers' Choice, New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age, and School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year.
Marsha retired from the Hamline MFAC faculty in 2017.
I think about this idea a lot, but I haven't been working it into my writing yet. Yesterday I was thinking, "without desire, there is no story." The desire of the character often becomes the first thing we talk about in the craft of a great story. We haven't talked much about vulnerability when I've been tuned in. But I like this word. It really sums up a lot. I heard something the other day about how it's characters' desires that get them into trouble. I guess that is what makes them vulnerable. Really at this point, I'd be happy to create a character who was something besides vulnerable, or who had any desires at all. Right now my characters are like over warmed broccoli. So all you inkpotters: What are some "comforts" or strengths you've granted one of your characters, and where did you glean the idea from?