Saturday, December 22, 2012

Character and Connections

Characters are the heart of fiction. If they aren't breathing, people can't connect to your writing. So how do you get them to breathe? That's the problem and the struggle. There are plenty of books that will talk about creating elaborate character sketches or filling out this form or that questionaire about your characters. These may, in fact, help some people come to know their characters better and so help them breathe life into them. But by themselves they aren't enough to create living, breathing characters. Why not? Because they are working from the outside. They're trying to force the character to move and act from a set of characteristics the author has created. But unless the author can use these methods to actually create a character who is living in the story the character will make the wrong choices and she won't come to life.

What the writer has to do is find a way to be inside his character and move the character forward with the story. To do that the writer needs to create a kind of circulation connecting the character with the other elements of writing fiction: setting, plot and subplot, narrative drive, language, other characters etc...all of these need to work together, each scene adding to what was before it and connecting to what will come after. It's helpful when writing to keep thinking about making connections. Characters do things for reasons. Sometimes the writer doesn't see these clearly. Fortunately, unlike life, writers get to revise their work. In the revisions the connections will become clearer and clearer and by working to discover these reasons and linking them to the other characters and the story, the characters will begin to breathe.

Or so I think today.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Just Begin It

You have to start a manuscript to finish one. And, as I've said before, finishing a first rough draft is how I begin to really see the structure of my novel and understand what it's about. But before that I have to stumble through rough territory. A lot of that first draft my characters are the walking dead, but I keep pounding away on the keyboard and trying to give them life. A lot of the story is clumsy as a drunk trying to walk a straight line but... And the language--painful to look at in places. BUT there are moments of joy and enjoyment in all this and some good writing, too.



You have to get through that first draft though. Enjoy the discovery moments and force yourself to write even if you know it's not that good. You have to finish that first draft to have a second and third. Not all of you will work this way but many of you will; I do. You can go back while you're writing the first draft and improve sections and tinker with ideas and plot and make that first draft a little better. I do. BUT don't allow yourself to do this INSTEAD of pushing on. Your goal each day should be to push on and move the story and characters forward so that you can get to the moment where you type THE END. Keep thinking about making connections in the work to help you keep it on track but know that you will wander off sometimes.

I think there is nothing more important for an inexperienced writer than finishing work.  Know that the first few months of writing something new are maybe the toughest because the writing is so rough and you're discovering your way. Force yourself through it.

Allow yourself to write badly in order that you may write better.