Martine is the author of amazing, terrific books such as Heck Superhero Tom Finder and Keturah and Lord Death. She's also an instructor for a children's writing MFA program, so it's not wonder she's an incredible WIFYR workshop teacher.
I'm going to divide this into two parts because I have so many good notes to cover. Character Motivation Essentials: Martine gave us a series of questions to ask yourself about your main character or MC.
What does my MC want (emotional, concrete)?
Why can’t MC have what she wants?
What will happen if MC does not get what she wants? (stakes)
How does your MC struggle?
What additional hardships does the MC face?
When is it hopeless?
How does the story end?
How is your character changed?
What is surprising about the ending?
Going along with straightening out my crooked picture frames (see last post) in writing, taking the time to make sure we address these questions as we write is essential. Then, as we review our draft [I love Ann Cannon's method of printing it out and putting it in a 3-ring binder] ask those questions again.
If you don't know the answer to those questions, consider Martine's idea of doing some preliminary writing. To give you some idea of the effort that goes into her work, she says she does lots of early drafts—discovery draft, experimental draft, THEN first draft. I know I often feel a little too married to what I write. I have done a little of this since then, however, and find a 'junk draft an easier way to pull out the parts I like and dump the rest.
Are You Using Too Many Cliches? My eyes widened and I gasped at the thought of how many cliche phrases I use. Here's her list: heart pounding, throat constricting, fist, teeth or stomach clenching, swallowing, widening eyes, gasping, all manner of breathing, tears, trembling, freezing, frozen. I'm not saying you can never use these, but it's food for thought. And yes, my cliches are intentional.