Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flawed Characters

I've always been aware that flawed characters are important for stories.  However, it's hard for me to really name books that have truly flawed characters.  Usually they're shown as perfect specimens and the main obstacle is usually an external force, a misunderstanding, a killer that needs caught...the obstacle rarely seems to be caused by the hero(ines) flaws, not caring, arrogance, self-esteem issues, etc. at least not in the books I typically read, which is fine so long as the book entertains me.

I truly believe the story I'm writing is interesting, but I'm not convinced I've written my characters so they have flaws. After reading a book where the main character does have obvious flaws, I've tried focusing on giving my characters more of a flaw without adding unnecessary bulk to the story.  I didn't want my characters in a fight, near death or anything like that simply to display that they have faults.  I want their faults to add to the story in a meaningful way.

But what constitutes a true flaw? I've been reading articles and read several definitions.  The most common ones seem to be that the "flaw" cannot be turned into a positive. So a character cannot be, say, a busybody and that trait allows the character to solve the murder, the mystery and all the mis-communication that happened throughout the book. Probably not the best example, but you get the idea.

So, what can I do?  The story is written.   All I need is to edit things.

I have a few ideas on what I could do and if they work out, the book would feel like its come full circle, provide room for some more hints and red herrings and lengthen the novel in a good way. If it goes completely wrong, well I'd still have my old draft to fall back on, right?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Boise Run/Walk

As a writer I don't get much exercise. Okay.  Much may be an overstatement, unless you count flexing a creative muscle.  However, I do know the importance of exercise.  The first time I lost about 40 pounds in four months. I stopped exercising though when I developed problems with my legs. I gained all the weight I lost and then some.  A few months later I tried again with a personal trainer.  I didn't lose a pound but I regularly exercised for about 3 hours every-other-day.  Despite loving the high that exercise gave me, I stopped working out when I graduated college and no longer had a personal trainer to hold me accountable.

Needing accountability seems to be  a big thing for me.  Once I get started with exercising, I tend to do all the work.  I've been told that I often push myself too hard, too fast. But I have fun with it.  I enjoyed the high of the exercise, most importantly, I fell in love with running, jogging and walking.  But without that accountability, I stop going to the gym, which is a shame, because exercise had a positive impact on my writing, along with my body.  I was thinner, toned. I could write longhand for longer periods of time. I had more energy and felt more focused. Words came easier to me. I miss that feeling. Ever since I stopped exercising, I've sworn I'd get back into shape, get on a regular exercise schedule, lose weight.  But I've been unable to get back on the train. It's been almost three years.

So I was intrigued when I found a group called  Boise Run/Walk.  A group dedicated to runners, and walkers?  Coaches to help?  Sounded like a combination of my favorite exercise and the accountability I needed. I did some research, asked some questions and signed up.  Shortly after signing up, I received a training schedule.  The formal meetings for the group is on Saturday.  The training plan includes how long one should walk/jog/run on specific days so you're working out, without overworking your body.  If members want, they can meet up with other members on those days to workout, which sounds like is a popular thing, or they can train alone on those days.  The idea is to get out there but coach Steve did say he thought the most important thing was to have fun doing it.

Jan. 5 was my first day participating in Boise Run/Walk. To prepare I got up at 6:30am and made omelettes for breakfast, something I remember making a lot when I was losing a lot of weight.  By 8am I was in the gym with other members, ready to start.

The idea of the group is to help coach and motivate people to get out and exercise.  Some of the members are hard-core marathon runners, some members are wanting to try something smaller like a 5k or 10k, and others are members for the socialization, the exercise and the accountability. You are not required to do anything.  You can set your own pace, but it's recommended that you start slow.

I enjoyed going out for the meeting on January 5.  I met some people, learned more about the program and got some exercise. Each morning the group starts off with some kind of "training" or "lesson" that'll help with your exercise regimen. The topics may be on nutrition, breathing properly, core strength or any number of things.   We started off with an introduction group, with it being the first meeting. I'm looking forward to learning from the group.

Afterwards, everyone started on their walk/run/jog.  Depending on your goals, members had a choice of distances to choose from.  Those training for the 10k were encouraged to walk a mile.  Those training for the half-marathon were encourage to walk 3 miles.  Of course, you could go as far as you wanted.  So if three miles wasn't enough, then continue going.  Each Saturday meeting, the distance will slowly increase to help train you for a marathon.

I'm telling you a mile and a half may not seem like much but I felt it later. Yes. I could have walked farther without it bothering my legs but my back would have hated me even more.  I learned a lot from coach Steve who spent most of his time on the walk, providing tips and answering questions about training, which was a great introduction for someone who has never really done outdoor running/jogging/walking.  I was usually on a treadmill.



The temperature was about 5 degrees. I'd received some new walking shoes for Christmas and I'm glad to say they worked beautifully on the walk outside.  I was afraid I'd blister because of the darn things.  Two layers worked to keep my upper body warm, but my legs were a little chilled and I'm told frost formed on my face. The cold soaked into my skin slowly, a layer at a time. So that even hours after the walk, burrowed under covers, I could still feel the cold in my legs.  I probably need to invest in some good walking pants for these colder temperatures and perhaps a ski mask.  I couldn't feel my face for most of the walk.

Afterwards, we stretched to cool down and I asked a Physical Therapist about the back pain I could already feel developing after sitting down for the stretches.  Apparently having physical therapists at the Saturday walks is a regular thing and they're identifiable by the clothes they wear.  They give free advice on Saturdays.  On occasion massage therapists will be available after the Run/Walk meetings. This was not one of them.  I'm told the Run/Walk program has other resources for members that they may be able to tap into should the need strike.

I'm looking forward to future meetings and plan to keep to the workout plan they've set up for us.  Believe me, I'll be reporting on how everything works out for me.  What changes happen for me and if I keep up with the membership.  So far I plan to stay for the entire season membership.