My present project, Norman in the Painting, needs a specific genre. I called it a suspense with paranormal elements but someone said that category didn’t fit. A suspense novel involves imminent danger, high stakes, and threats. Usually the readers and characters know the perpetrator, but the problem is to avoid the impending doom. Waves of frightening peril increase in intensity and lead to the crushing climax, and then at the end all is resolved.
Multiple threats and murders happen in Norman in the Painting, but the focus is not the arc described above.
Mystery seems like a generic description since mysterious elements are in many books in other genres as well. Specific mystery novels have a puzzle to solve, The protagonist has to find out whodunit in a crime that readers do not see happening. Clues are sprinkled throughout the story and the main character’s clever investigative skills unravel the complicated case.
Norman nor Jill have to track clues to know who did what. They have a problem surrounding their relationship that is not under their control. They have to figure out what to do about it.
A romance novel has a hero and heroine who meet, have conflict at first, develop into a romantic relationship, and then live happily every after. Norman in the Painting ends with a slim possibility of Jill and Norman being happy ever after because of the dangerous situation they agree to embrace. It’s less than a 50/50 chance they will be able to remain together. The required expectation that they will, eliminates my novel from the traditional romance genre.
After exploring all the possibilities, I’m back to my original category: a paranormal romance, which gives the novel a freer ending.
What genre is your novel?
I ordered this book, Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD. The following is a summary of what the back book cover states about four brain chemicals. I thought learning about the chemicals would be useful in showing how our POV character or the antagonist could be deficient in
one or more of the chemicals, which could explain some of their behaviors.
Dopamine makes us jump for joy. Dopamine feels great so we try to get more. It rewarded our ancestors’ will to explore.
Endorphin helps us to mask pain. Our ancestors survived from predator attack because endorphin caused them to feel good. Exercise triggers endorphin so we can safely reach home. Laughing or crying triggers it too.
Serotonin is stimulated by the status aspect…the pride of associating with a person of a certain stature. It triggers our need for respect.
Oxytocin is stimulated by touch and by social trust. It flows when we stick with the herd and create social bonds. Herds protected our ancestors from harm.
In my WIP, Norman in the Painting, my protagonist, Jill, has a need for more dopamine and endorphin. Her inner fears cause her to love running. Her goal is to run three miles every day. The endorphin rush makes her feel safe. Her lack of dopamine causes her to have no desire to explore. She spent most of her years close to her hometown and has no interest in travel. I’ll make sure she will produce more dopamine that will help her grow in her character arc.
The antagonist has a severe deficiency in oxytocin and serotonin.
Does your character have a chemical deficiency?
Today, I opened a book at random and found the following quote by Rollo May:
“The boundaries of our world shift under out feet and we tremble while waiting to see whether any new form will take the place of the lost boundary or whether we can create out of this chaos some new order.”
The quote reminded me of reading several existentialists’ books when I was in my twenties. Rollo May, 1909-1994, was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will in 1969. Paul Tillich, philosopher and theologian, was a close friend. According to Wikipedia, “Anxiety is a major focus of Rollo May and is the subject of his work “The Meaning of Anxiety”. He defines it as “the apprehension cued off by a threat to some value which the individual holds essential to his existence as a self” (1967, p. 72)…
“One way in which Rollo proposes to fight anxiety is by displacing anxiety to fear as he believes that ‘anxiety seeks to become fear’. He claims that by shifting anxiety to a fear, one can therefore discover incentives to either avoid the feared object or find the means to remove this fear of it.”
Since fear is one of the themes with my WIP, Norman in the Painting, I can use Rollo’s propositions in Jill’s character. Fear is natural to people and writers often use fear in their writing. In Chapter 18, Jill’s underlying fears are challenging her comfort zone. What felt like a simple fear in her past has multiplied to many fears that dash her environmental security.
Here are more quotes by Rollo May:
Has any of Rollo’s quotes inspired you or resonated with what you are writing now?
For the first time, I’m taking a class with Writer’s Digest University. “How to Find and Keep a Literary Agent Boot Camp.” It includes a tutorial presented by agents at the Dijkstra Literary Agency explaining the process of submitting to an agent. For two days, two hours each day, there will be Q and A on topic, and we will have time to revise our query letter and the first 5 double-spaced pages of our novels as necessary.
Then, best of all, we send our revisions directly to one of the four agents we are assigned. They will spend 10 days reviewing what we’ve submitted and provide feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. I pitched Norman in the Painting to an agent at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference last month who asked for the manuscript and query. I’m excited to attend the WD Boot Camp so I’ll learn how to present the best query and first five pages possible.
Have any of you taken a WD Boot Camp?
My Protagonist, Jill Steele, in Norman in the Painting, wears what I called a pink jogging suit. In a critique group, I was told the terminology is activewear, not jogging suit. Apparently, people don’t jog now days, they run. Jill’s sister convinces her to buy new clothes. Jill doesn’t like to go clothes shopping but since Norman is on the scene, she wants to look good for him. The pink activewear is a key to Norman’s vortex. Jill’s new activewear looks like the one here in Landsend’s photo. She hopes it will work as well as the old one did to bring Norman through the painting.
Do you think it will or does she have to wear her old worn pink outfit?
Picture credit to Landsend.com.
Jill, my protagonist in Norman in the Painting, has a fear of taking risks. She went to the university closest to her hometown although she was accepted in several that were in different states. She wasn’t afraid to leave her parents or to leave her few friends. The small town in the story is a character and that familiar setting is security for her. It’s thirty miles from San Francisco, but she’s never been across the bay. Her parents and sister, involved with the small town’s politics, told Jill the city was unsafe, and had no redeeming qualities so why bother to go there? Gullibility is another of Jill’s flaws. The one time Jill took a risk was in marrying a charming stranger who came to town and who, a year later, tried to kill her.
Part of her character arc is to overcome her fears. In Chapter 18 that I’m writing now, Jill comes to the realization that her fears have prevented her from moving forward in life. However, the risks she now takes will put her and everyone she knows in danger.
What are your character’s flaws and fears?
What is the difference between motif and theme? A motif in narrative is a recurring element throughout a literary work. A motif can be an image, words, an object, a sound, color, or ideas. A motif is not a symbol. A symbol represents something, for example, a light bulb means “new idea”. Often symbols occur once or twice in a story whereas a motif repeats and is noticeable. A motif is not a theme, it helps to develop or explain a theme, which is a central idea or message. Theme is the deeper layer of meaning beneath the story’s surface.
Motif is more concrete than theme. A good example of motif is the ring in Lord of the Rings. It is present throughout the story and helps to develop the theme of power corrupts. In the Hunger Games trilogy, the mocking jay image is a motif that recurs to promote the idea of rebellion. More than one motif can be used. In Macbeth, blood is one motif as well as light and dark, and blindness.
One of the motifs I use in Norman in the Painting is a pink running suit that Jill, the protagonist, wears. It helps to develop the theme of fear. Jill keeps in shape so she can run away from anything she doesn’t want to face. Foo Dogs are another motif. She buys several sets instead of the usual one and places them at every doorway of her house rather than the typical placement at the front door. Traditionally, Chinese Foo Dogs are imperial guardian lion statues. One male that guards the structure of the building and one female that guards the family inside. Jill appears to be capable. She works as a CPA, lives by herself, and resents her older sister telling her what to do, but underneath Jill doesn’t feel safe.
What are your motifs in your story?
When writers write characters’ habits, they can show body language like rubbing a nose, flipping long hair, etc. Habits can include lucky objects that a character uses before a challenge like a rabbit’s foot or a special crystal, penny, or any number of choices. In my novel, Norman in the Painting, I wanted Jill, the protagonist, to have a habit that she could rely on to put her at ease.
When she was growing up, her parents favored her older sister and wanted Jill to be like Vivian. Arguments often occurred during dinner hour, which for them, was 6:00. One way she survived, was to leave the room after dinner, go to her room, and turn on TV. Jeopardy, with Alex Trebek at 7:00 became her comfort zone. She could depend on him, six nights of the week. The program took her mind off the parents’ high expectations of her and their disappointments by seeing how many Jeopardy questions she would answer correctly. I’ll have to find the right place to intersperse that bit of backstory.
In the novel’s time frame, she continues to watch Jeopardy to avoid an altercation with her sister on a stormy night and another time when the antagonist threatens her. Following the power of three (repetitions), I will add one more time that she will rely on Trebek.
What habits do your characters have?
How did you determine what to name your characters? Did the names just pop into your head? Did you change the names often? Did you look up their meanings?
In my multidimensional novel, Norman in the Painting, I choose the first or second name that came to me. I decided to look up their meanings and found a site that gives a one-line description for each name. The link is http://www.meaning-of-names.com
The names I had chosen for the novel a year ago fit the meanings I found today. The protagonist, Jill, means sweetheart, which she is. Her sister, Vivien, a complete opposite of Jill, means full of life. Viv is an extrovert compared to Jill so it fits. Their last name is Steele, hard and durable as steel, a perfect name for Jill’s parents and sister, but not for her. However, she has felt like a misfit in the family, so it works. Reginald, the antagonist, has a few meanings. The one that fits is mighty ruler, which is what he acts out, but in criminal ways. Jack, an immature friend of Vivien’s, purposely annoys Jill and her friends. The link stated Jack means a supplanter. It comes from the verb supplant and means “to trip up or to overthrow.” In Jack’s simplistic way, it’s what he does all day long.
If you aren’t a writer, it’s interesting to learn the meaning of your name or names of family and friends. I didn’t have time to check other sites. I doubt if the meanings are consistent, but probably close.
What do the names of your characters mean?