Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just Telling the Story, Part 3 (?)

Not sure if this is actually part three or part twenty-two. No matter.

I'm pleased to announce Some Insights. No, not mine -- those of my masterful-writer with crit-partner, Janny. She's found out that she cannot have "The Box" in her head when she's writing. That she must write like she wants to, the stories she wants to tell.

Now, this is a writer with a superb sense of "story." She is always asking her characters: "Why?" And she insists I take my work to a higher level by asking my characters "Why?" also.

Here's the reason. You sit down and begin to write (at least, you do if you're a seat-of-the-pants writer, like I am) and a character pops up and begins to form in your mind. Sometimes, if the Muse is smiling on you (mine usually doesn't -- that's why I call her Sulky Brat), your character will pop up full-formed and deliciously realized, like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus. At other times, you only get a glimmer of who your character is. This demands you drill deeper.

Let's say your character is a woman with commitment issues. You peel off a layer and find out she has commitment issues because (1) her dog died; (2) her father abandoned the family when she was small; (3) the last guy she dated treated her like youdon'twannaknowwhat.

Okay -- why? Why do these things cause her to distrust going with someone long-term? How did they affect her? You don't know that just by discerning the basis of her issue. You have to ask why, not once but many times, to get the right depth and make her "live" in your reader's mind as a character.

Janny's great at this -- when she lets herself tell the story she wants to tell and doesn't hem herself in by thinking, "Must color inside the lines...must color inside the lines."

No. Take risks. Get dirty. Dare to tell the story you want to tell, give your characters the lives and personalities they must have, let your voice be heard clearly. Worry about the market later.

No comments: