Writing Practice and the Muse Who is ALWAYS THERE
Writing Leap #48
Thanksgiving is the official time to verbalize “gratefuls.”
What about asking your fictional characters to tell you their “gratefuls?” They may surprise you! Maybe they think they don’t have any, or maybe they will reveal something about themselves that will show you a deeper side, an unexpected layer of who they are. Your character may show you he’s not always dense, or loving or grouchy or intelligent.
Asking your character questions, listening for his answers or “seeing” a new gesture or facial expression emerge is one way to add revealing dimensions to his behavior. It’s a good way to avoid the dreaded “one dimensional character.”
Go ahead and try asking your characters what they are grateful for. Start with a blank page, put the character’s name on top and ask the question! Give them a chance to show you how richly layered they may be. They might reward you by breathing right off the page.
Here’s mine. I asked my character if she were grateful for anything. She revealed something I never knew about her and I realized I had done her an injustice. She wasn’t just one way. She was another way too.
She had to get rid of this dog. He bites, well nips, her ankles, the delivery man’s ankles, guest’s ankles, everybody’s ankles. He whines every hour on the hour at night. Can he tell time? Here’s the worst. Sometimes he goes poo-poo in her husband’s back office, in front of the bathroom door. Right after a long walk outside.
Here he was now, looking up at her while she sat reading, tissues piling up in the basket next to her. Her nose wouldn’t stop running and her throat was sore and her head was hot. She crossed her legs trying to find a comfortable position. Holding the top leg slightly out in front of her felt good.
The dog lay at her feet. He reached his big paw up to her lifted leg and plopped it there, on her ankle. He was very still. She stared at him for a few moments, then a few more moments. She couldn’t help the smile and she ruffled the dog’s ears. She leaned back and felt the warmth of his paw spread through her, landing, she realized, on her heart. The dog looked her in the eye and didn’t move his paw from her leg. She really would be bereft without him. How could she be in her house without that doggie love following her around?
A Very Happy Thanksgiving Writers with many “gratefuls!” As for me, I am so grateful I am a writer because my eyes are always open wide.
LINKING THE ARTS
A Good Word
Trust, as in trusting that your characters know who they are.
I wonder if Dickens or Tolstoy or Edith Wharton had conversations with their characters?
I was stuck today. Then your newsletter came with this out-of-the-blue suggestion that I might try “interviewing” my character about what he’s grateful for.
I did. And he told me. I learned layers of inklings of depths that I had never explored before. Layers that I think will make him more three-dimensional.
Now, I’m the grateful one! Thank you. Please know you’ve just helped at least one writer to up his game a little bit.
Bob I am honored that you were inspired by my thoughts about what has worked for me. I hope you know how happy that makes me. Writers helping writers. I too am the grateful recipient of writer’s suggestions, yours very much included. Here’s to gratefuls! Cynthia
Thank you for the continued inspiration, CMW.