I wrote yesterday that I think it’s worthwhile to explore difficult subjects as a writer. It made me think of a wonderful, inspiring post by Donald Maass, which reminds us to not just write compulsively, but to consciously risk ourselves in writing.
Here is his challenge:
The challenge: What is it that you—yes, you—least want to accept, refuse to feel, fear is true, find unbearable, feel angriest about, or avoid at any cost? What do you see around you that makes you sick? What in yourself makes you terrified?
Go further: What’s the truth that underlies all things? What principle guides human behavior? What’s the greatest insight you’ve even had about yourself? Or even just this: What do you know about anything that nobody else does?
Give any of the above to your protagonist and share the rest around with your other characters. Hold nothing back. Save nothing for future projects. To stir your readers you must first unsettle yourself—a lot.
today was my last day of school for the year, and I am preparing myself for the re-emergence of my novel. I am looking at three months of full-time writing, and I could cry from happiness.
The timing is…good.
I am coming back around to writing what I love first, and applying technique later (the Write Out Loud thing). So for the last few weeks I have been feeling my novel shyly emerging from the husk of Draft Zero. It’s a different beast – more complex and compelling and with much more at stake.
It’s a bit like an alien bursting out of the belly – mine or the manuscript’s…not quite sure.
I’m not a big one for writing up character sheets and interviews and biographies, or doing the same for plots and worlds. I tend to create as I write, from the back of my brain. But with this emerging second-life/alien-baby novel, the time is ripe.
I have begun to write my first ever truly comprehensive character sketches, and I’m loving it. I love the freedom to ramble however I like, I love the ridiculous, gorgeous lengths I can push them to without fear of retribution, and most of all I love the world of details that are emerging.
I don’t think this work always has to be done first. For me, these characters didn’t exist until I had met them through the first draft. But I am discovering the real joy and benefit of doing character work.
And lastly, Donald Maass has written a beautiful post about the importance of detail.
I’m reading Lover Unbound just now, and still mourning the separation of Butch and Vishous. Makes it hard to engage with V’s woman, but more about that tomorrow….
Coming back to the book after my evening of class and choir, I had this odd feeling like I couldn’t remember what had happened so far. How the characters had come to be where they were in the book.
I started to panic just a little, book nerd that I am, hoping I would still be able to be inside the story, even with my curious case of amnesia.
It got me wondering: is reading a story like learning the alphabet? You have to forget it all over again in order to read the whole. If a character and their journey is truly well-drawn, does it matter whether you remember the particular events, as long as you intimately know the character as they are now – as a changed, transforming thing?