Writing is exciting. I wake in the morning ready to word-paint the next scene: characters lurk in the wings like actors listening for their cue, each fidgeting before they stride onto the page; foreshadowed plot twists beckon me forward and demand increased attention. Ideas and events originally planned for the first novel evolve into much more than expected when weaved into the second book, more complicated and harboring deeper, richer tones. The plot edges nearer surprises awaiting not only the reader, but me.
I wonder how I came to this exhilaration of creation.
In the opening novel, the first draft altered dramatically into what has become the completed version; so shall the second. Throughout the creating process, my characters and I conversed often, each conversation adding to the depth of their individual personalities. Sometimes I was surprised. I learned many things about human nature during those talks, nuances of perception, both mine and theirs. Now friends, each character holds true to their own nature, varied in all phases of their persona. Each character I developed is real to me; hopefully their faceted personalities will intrigue future readers. That’s not up to me, though: my task, first and foremost, is to joy in the act of writing.
In that, I have succeeded.
Characters are the foundation of all stories, the driving force that moves readers down the road the writer paves. The road will be pot-holed and dangerous, bridges fallen to deep chasms below, enemies charging from the surrounding forest, as it should be. The challenges and the pitfalls the characters encounter—even more important is how they react to the difficult times—shapes them as a human being and more than black marks on a page.
Just as when you meet someone new, your perception changes as you watch and interact, whether daily or only on occasion. The words people say and how they say them gives you insights into likes and dislikes, passions, fears, and hopes. And then they do something unexpected.
Think of the mild-mannered cook who suddenly screams obscenities at the wait staff and throws a cleaver into a wall; the all-business secretary uncharacteristically brought to tears by a gesture from a fellow employee; the hardened cop crying at the sight of an accident. People in the throes of human emotion make a compelling story, and in the midst of watching the event unravel, the writer wants to know why people act and react the way they do. What happened in their life that formed the secretary into an “all-business” type; what horrid things did the cop witness that forced him into a shell to hold back the emotion for fear it would destroy him, and why did this accident cause tears? Is the cook mild-mannered, or just shy? Or is he something else altogether?
Peel back the layers of a person’s life and you will discover what makes people the way they are. Characters are the same way.
The instances described (cook, secretary, cop) are the beginning of the story, the hook that lures the reader in. Show the scene that pulls the emotion from the character, how they feel, and then spoon-feed the reader the “what-brought-them-to-this” highlights. Highlights. Too often, there is a tendency to explain everything—a dead-weight that brings the reader to an abrupt halt. Just as a painter knows what to leave off the canvas, so should the writer know what does not need to be said. Knowing what goes in and what comes out takes place in revision stage when you don the editor’s hat, and the more it’s done, the better a writer will be. For me, that is later.
Now is the burning heat of the first draft when my “friends” are living their lives; all I have to do is watch and write it down. Excuse me while I do just that . . . .
We’ll meet again on the next page,
This Week’s Writing Quote:
“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.” Sharon O’Brien
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