Friday, February 24, 2012

understanding character

Why are some actors not very good? Talent, of course, is part of any discussion about any art. But just setting aside talent for a second, when an actor isn’t truly in a scene I think it’s often because they don’t understand the character. Or they understand the character only in a surface way and so their lines and expressions and body language all seem untrue. I think this is what happens to writers. They force themselves along and a scene just gets less and less true. The reader feels it when reading the manuscript. The writer isn’ t there in the scene and the scene feels false.

How do you get there inside the character? I think writers find different ways. Some outline. Some journal. Some write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and so on. Thankfully, we have many chances. But one thing to consider is you have to try to see the scene unfold in a moment-to-moment way through the eyes of your narrator. When you’re actually writing the scene, you have to try to be there by living the scene. If you’re there in the scene, you’ll make the right decisions and the scene will be true. Of course, you should test and retest this in revision but being there in the scene will allow the fiction to move forward in an organic way so that the plot grows out of the situation and characters.

It’s a constant struggle and it isn’t easy but one thing I do always try to do is see the scene unfold through the character.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

student alien invasion video

Love this student video for ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES. It's for an English class.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Writing Badly

It’s good to write bad sometimes. It doesn’t seem good while you’re doing it. Annoying. Frightening. Irritating. Discouraging. It seems more along the lines of these words. It FEELS more like that. You want to be better. You want to write beautiful prose with depth and meaning and you want your characters to feel right and all that.

Sometimes you can’t.

In fact, in early drafts, you can’t a lot. You have to write badly in order to get to the good stuff. For me, I’m finding my way in early drafts and I have to accept the imprecision of language and plot and character. If I don’t accept these things, then I have to stop writing.

I don’t want to do that.

I write nearly every day because I love it and because I believe that’s how you keep the momentum of a manuscript. So I take the good with the bad and hope that in revision I can turn most of that bad into good.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writing Isn't Baking a Pie

Writing isn’t baking a pie. I see recipes for writing all the time and I think how part of me wishes they worked so I could find the recipe and every time I’d make a very nice pie and that would be that. No more worrying and driving myself crazy about whether this or that works or doesn’t work or how to make a character really real instead of just a shadow of real. OR the big question—what am I missing in this manuscript? Parts of it sound right but parts of it don’t. I want to ignore this sense of missing but I just can’t quite fool myself into thinking it works and sometimes it haunts me.

If I had a recipe I could just put it all together, bake, and serve and people would eat (well, not literally) my book and they would say, “Pretty good.” Maybe there are writers who do this. A few—not many.

So, yes, I wish for this sometimes. BUT where’s the fun in that? Oh, maybe once or twice it would be fun, but without the struggle, the failures and the hard-earned victories, writing wouldn’t be the adventure that it is. I look at writers like Ray Bradbury and Elmore Leonard, writers in their 80s, who say they still love writing, it still gets them out of bed in the morning. That’s a wonderful thing. The act of writing enriches a life.

Recipes don’t work but maybe it’s a good thing they don’t