Today I spent too much time online instead of writing – or fixing my writing by editing – but for once the tendency toward procrastination paid off.
I shouldn’t even refer to this as a form of procrastination, because I was stuck with yesterday’s dilemma of trying to figure out what was wrong with the main character’s inability to stand out in the story. Now I know the answer.
I kind of – sort of touched on it in yesterday’s post, too. Neal’s lack of voice in my story. I just didn’t know it was called VOICE so it wasn’t something I gave a whole lot of credibility to while trying to figure out the problem.
I had the notion that I might have been playing it too safe with this guy being that I like him so much and want to carry him through this journey rather than let him experience it on his own. I also mentioned my fear of writing this story from a male perspective since I’m not a male and can’t think like one.
Anyway, I came across a great article about the topic and learned something I pretty much knew already but didn’t incorporate in my story.
Even without using dialogue, it is possible to make your character come alive and show off his or her talent via the technique of letting them say what’s on their mind instead of telling the reader what is going on in a particular scene. She made it seem simple by changing certain words in the same sentences to make the point, and it made sense to me for once.
Now, in all honesty, I do this as well, just not all the time, which becomes frustrating. I’m not being consistent. I think that’s because some scenes are easier to work than others. The hardest scenes for me are also the easiest to write from my own perspective – if that makes any sense.
An example would be that I’ve come to the point in the story where Neal crashes to earth and has the repressed childhood memories surface. It’s time for him to go back, face the truth, and then learn how to move forward as a new, improved man. He’s going to hit rock bottom now and resort to uncharacteristic things like smoking, drinking, and distancing himself from everyone he once associated with in order to overcome the demons.
When I started this chapter, I did myself a favor by simply listing everything that occurred in his past and in chronological order, when, what, how, and why type writing. Then I went back and included him in the scene. His mother was involved in a minor traffic incident, but it was a catalyst for him. Her vulnerability and his inescapable fears from childhood.
I had him remembering these incidences that he had somehow managed to repress, but there is very little in the way of dialogue or thought bubble going on … yet.
Actually, according to the advice given, there isn’t much need for either. I simply need to go back to the story and search for places where wording could change to make it his voice instead of my own. I can sympathize with him at this point, but I can’t be forced to tell his story. He has to do that, and I need to find the places where it will sound more like him than me.
It sounds difficult, now, but I’m not going to let myself believe that – at least not until I actually get the thing underway, and then I might end up crying buckets for awhile before walking away, again, to ponder some more and brood over my inability to just get the damn thing written the way it’s supposed to be written.
Instead of saying he’s pissed off, I need him to explain what it is that’s upset him. Instead of explaining about the emotional aspects of his early trauma, I need for him to express or show the effects of that trauma. Again, I did little things like his inability to fall asleep that night, leaving the bed to go to a dresser yet not be able to look at himself in the mirror, and then he ends up on a moonlit balcony, gazing blearily at the dark ocean before him. Metaphoric type stuff I’m good at but need to incorporate more into the scenes.
His thoughts, his emotions, his feelings at the time and now, etc. Actually, if it wasn’t evident from the start, then I need to go back to the beginning with this one as well. Only, I can’t right now because I must first finish this chapter. Which is fine, because once I get it down here, I’ll be able to go back to the beginning with a stronger, more comprehensive knowledge of what to look for and change.
So, as I was pinning images in my Inspiration and Writing categories at Pinterest, I came across more helpful advice blogs.
Peder Hill’s blog, Learn the Elements of a Novel wrote an article titled – Character Development Drives Conflict which gave me hope in the confirmation of knowing I do this! I incorporate traits and quirks in all of my characters that increase, introduce, and add to the conflict/resolution aspect of a story.
There is a definite reason why Neal and Liv need to hook up, and although she isn’t going to be his salvation, she has a purpose in his life. Whether they decide to hook up after everything is resolved remains to be seen. Her past was faced and dealt with at the time it occurred but leaving her with personality scars that turned her into who she is while Neal shoved the fears onto a back burner, posturing for years until the mask finally broke and now he’s forced to have to deal with things she’s overcome.
The yin/yang thing.
Margo Berendsen’s 38 Ways to Check for Character Life-Signs was a great read and something I bookmarked to go back and reference. Again, pleasantly surprised and pleased to discover that I do, indeed, follow a lot of the guideline questions she asked about each of my characters.
The first two questions she poses are:
1. When you introduce your main character, is she/he doing something – an action distinctive to him/her that also raises a question and sets a hook?
2. Do you clearly state what your main character wants within the first few pages, and what’s standing in their way?
I can honestly say yes to both. I know for a fact these occurred right away, which is why I feel confident that even if Neal didn’t quite resonate in that instance, he’s still got purpose and so does the story.
Darcy Pattison posted – 10 Body Language Tricks for Deeper Characterization that was another fun read.
Her first suggestion surprised me:
Give your character a pair of sunglasses.
Because Neal is sporting them in the first chapter.
Now, this is where my writing really shines. I could say yes to everything she pointed out here, and with confidence as well. I think this is an extremely important aspect of novel writing – to include body language, facial expression, and strange mannerisms even I don’t quite get but have seen performed on occasion. It’s as easy as looking up explanations, though. She gives answers and the why’s to a few and also points me in the direction of a magazine article on the same subject.
So, I come away from this knowing a bit more and realizing things I knew but took for granted about myself and my writing. I’m great at some things, good at others, and totally suck at some.
I think everyone who writes, wants to write, or even has written and been published feels this way, though.