Friday, October 30, 2015

Ghostbusters and the 4 Archetype Characters

Since it's all Halloween and stuff, I thought I'd use the opportunity to use one of the greatest movies of all time as a sterling example of the four basic personality types.

Don't forget there's variation in there, usually of the introvert/extrovert flavor.

Source: Columbia Pictures
Let's just go left to right in the picture.

Egon Spangler is the token NT Rational: the nerd, the scientist. Always calculating, questioning, and over-thinking. Emotionally inept (unable to see the secretary's crush on him). Relies a lot on technology and is always inventing things.

These characters are typically nerds in movies, but keep in mind while there is truth to this, the most important thing is they are asking the big-picture questions and answering everyone else's questions with precision. They don't have to be scientists- they make great military strategists.

Ray Stantz is the NF Idealist: "The heart of the Ghostbusters." He is easily swept up in the ideas of others and has the enthusiasm and optimism that just makes you want to hug him.

Ray naively denied his divinity (after trying to reason with Gozer) and is the one who thought of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man because a happy, harmless childhood memory "just popped in there." While Idealists are known for being emotional, Ray shows they aren't totally wimpy either.

Peter Venkman is the quip-master SP Artisan. He sweet-talks Ray into a 3rd mortgage to pay for their business venture, and he has almost all the comebacks we love. Generally smooth under pressure (except when he was slimed) and lies like a carpet whenever he wants something.

Venkman was the prime motivator of the plot, the show-man. Ray and Egon wanted to catch ghosts and thought it could be done, but it was the Artisan who made it happen. And also the Artisan's big mouth which got them in trouble with the EPA. In the end, it's Venkman who convinces the mayor to take a chance on them by hitting the politician where it matters most: "Lennie, you will be the responsible for saving the lives of millions of registered voters."

Winston Zedemore , the down-to earth SJ Guradian joins the team last, as a hire-on to help with the workload. When interviewed he's asked if he believes in a bunch supernatural stuff and his response is, "If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say." He's less knowledgeable than the others, but he doesn't want to know more- he just wants a job. He's a bit of a square, but he's a dependable guy.

When they're all in jail, while the others are discussing the outlandish situation, he may believe them but thinks they're all crazy for preparing to explain to the authorities.

In fact, that jail conversation is a perfect example of all the types.
Idealist Ray: We gotta get out of here. We gotta talk to a judge or something.
Guardian Winston: Wait a minute! You're actually going to go before a federal judge and say some moldy Babylonian god is going to drop down on Central Park West and start tearing up the city?
Rational Egon: Sumerian, not Babylonian.
Artisan Pete: Yeah, big difference.
Guardian Winston: No offense, but I'm gonna to get my own lawyer.

So it should be interesting to see how the new movie plays out. When you go see it, look for the same characters. It's the interplay of the four types- and that everyone in the audience can identify with one of them- that made the original work so well.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Getting the Call

It's been a few months now, so I can look back on getting an agent with a calmer perspective. There is sooooo much more to this story, but I'll try to zoom in on the more relevant events.

Last May I'd been querying for, officially, about seven months. Right at the beginning I got a partial (passed a week later) and a full (but was warned it would be a long time before the agent would have time to read it). In January I realized I'd queried too soon, and my manuscript needed a major make-over. Plot and pacing were pretty good, but some of it was just so clumsy.

So as the first round of rejections finished rolling in, I pressed pause and went back perform surgery on my baby. I rewrote about half the scenes and cut 12,000 words (though I let about 8000 back in after they promised to be better). Then I sent it out to a group of beta readers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and there were several good suggestions. Just before I was done polishing it, I heard from the agent who had an earlier version, saying she was ready to start reading soon, and since it had been so long, she wanted to make sure it was a) still available and b) the latest revision. I risked looking like a total noob and asked for extra time to finish what I was working on.

Two weeks later I took a deep breath and sent out a round of queries and 2 full requests (one to said agent, another that had come in a February earlier). Almost immediately I got another full request. Can you say dizzy?

But the literary world is a cruel one, and a week later rejections started rolling in again, including on the new full. Fewer were form rejections though, and that was a good sign. I girded my loins and sent out another round, then that evening I got a quick note from that one agent (from the very beginning) saying she was starting in the next couple days so I would hear from her soon.

(Can I just throw out here that I REALLY appreciated those progress notes? It is agonizing to have a manuscript- or even just a query- out for weeks or months and after all that time of wondering if they are liking it or hating it, it turns out they haven't even had a chance to look at it? Agents are busy, and their actual clients come first, and I totally get that, but that knowledge of their status is lovely.)

So several days later I'm riding in the car to a local USNA alumni luncheon. I'd spent the week prepping another batch of query letters because we were moving soon, and I thought now was the time to send them. I figured the wait would be easier if I had school ending and packing and driving and unpacking, etc to distract me. My phone buzzed with an email, and I pulled it out to look. Groupon.

As I dismissed the notification, I remember thinking that someday, someday it would be an email from an agent saying "I want to see more" or "I want to talk." It would happen when I was least expecting it, but someday it would happen. I put the phone down and sighed. Someday.

My phone buzzed with a new email. I swear this is true.

It was from that first agent, the patient one. In the notification, I could read the first lines of message: Dear Erin, You kept me up all night reading, I'm very upset with you. Now I have to go back and read the story again...

I may or may not have stopped breathing. I slammed the phone back down on my lap, like when I was 13 and called the radio station to win Paula Abdul tickets, and they answered with "You're caller number nine!" and I panicked and hung up.

No. Effing. Way.

I stared out the windshield for a minute (I will always remember where we were on the highway). Finally I mumbled to my husband (who was driving). "I just got an email from an agent."

"Really, what did it say?"

"It says..." I picked up the phone and opened the message. It was short, but clear. "She wants to talk."

The rest of the day was pretty much an out of body experience. The only part I remember was two hours later I got a phonecall from my son's teacher about a tantrum he'd thrown. Talk about whiplash. But I was still so high I don't even think I was mad.

I don't remember setting up the call. I don't remember writing pages of questions to ask. But I must have done both of those things because less than a week later I was on google chat with a printout in front of me and a deer in the headlights look on my face. Don't let her know you're crazy.

She put me right at ease. She said the nicest things about my story. She suggested a revision point in the plot, which I liked, but she offered rep without it.

Then it was over. It took me another day to be able to start emailing all the agents who still had my query. Manuscript requests and very nice step-asides poured in. It was right during BEA (not to mention my house was being packed up and 3 of my kids celebrated birthdays), but at the end of two weeks I had a choice to make (and also a couple more who asked for extra time). Since I had so much going on I couldn't take calls right away, I extended it a little. Patient agent was patient.

Then I waited another day or two because writing my own rejection letters was freaking hard (and I was driving a van full of kids halfway across the country). And I went with the first agent, the patient one, the one who had a great revision idea, the one who requested a full way back 7 months before and so was one of the first to give me hope that this book might become a real thing- Valerie Noble.

And she still has to be patient with me, because I always have so much going on in life outside writing, and I can never, ever leave things alone. I never finish a revision but two days later I'm like, "Wait! I need to fix something else!" I already warned her she has to be prepared to cut me off like a bartender with a drunk sorority girl. You're done. Go home and sleep it off.

Anyway. There's still a long way to go on this journey, but now, even four months after signing with Valerie, I am as stoked as I was when I read that fateful email. Every day I'm like


Friday, October 2, 2015

Mood Swings

So anyone who writes knows the process is fraught with alternating manic joy and crushing depression. This has been going around the internet, and it pretty much sums it up:

Here's another, sweeter and fuzzier take:

It's pretty obvious what you should do in your high-as-kite moods: Write. Pour the sweat of your brain into your notebook, computer, voice recorder, cocktail napkin- whatever's handy.

Write. Write like the wind! Because inspiration and enthusiasm are at hand.

Write! Because it won't last.

A stiff breeze will blow you off that mountaintop. Sometimes these swings are triggered by feedback we receive, sometimes we do it to ourselves. Either way, that's when your brain goes:

And you step back and wonder if there's something horribly, unfixably wrong with your writing. You know something needs to be fixed or changed, but you don't know how to do it or it seems an enormous task... You're in a valley looking up and the mountain you've got to climb looks even higher from down there. You start wishing for a flash flood to come down and carry you away.

So what do you do?

No, really. How do you handle this?


(I'm asking for a friend)

You could wallow in it and self medicate, which, frankly, is often the most appealing option.

You could get out and exercise, even though your will to live is pretty much gone.

Some people would say write: Either tackle the problem or write something else. I've got two problems with this. First, maybe you're not ready to fix this problem. Maybe it needs to stew in your brain for a while. You may only get frustrated trying to get somewhere when you don't have it mapped. Second, writing can be hard when your brain is fixated on something else. You might produce crap (or nothing), leading you deeper into the pit of despair.

You could try listing all the positive things you've heard.

That only goes so far because what do those people know? They were your friends, not professionals. I'm sure they only said those things because they didn't want to hurt your feelings anyway. At least, that's what your brain responds with.

You could give your brain a break and just do what you want. For me, that usually means some form of carbs and watching or reading Jane Austen.

There's always kitten therapy.

Anyway, I'm fresh out of kittens and carbs aren't really a good option for my weight gain of late. I already exercised this morning and it's pouring rain so a long walk is not in the cards today.

I seriously want to know: How do you deal with the downs?