Friday, November 21, 2014

Take Time to Dig

If you're looking for the perfect gift for your writer friend this Christmas, here it is - Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass.  Definitely.  I can't say enough good things about this book.

Stick a copy in your own stocking, too.

My copy is highlighted in a rainbow of colors with notes crammed in, underlinings, starred passages, and corners dog-eared.  At the end of each chapter, the author lists soul-searching questions to break through the crusty surface and let you peek into your character's psyche and motivations.  (And by association, your own.)  I worked through the book slowly, forcing myself to take the time to dig deeply and squeeze all the juice out of the story.

One of the exercises that proved the most satisfying was to write down 20 things that only my protagonist would notice.  Until then, I had no idea that the house sucks in its breath when the housekeeper turns the key in the lock each morning and exhales when she leaves at night, or that my protagonist's husband talks in his sleep about his dead wife.

The author made one particular statement that I'm still mulling over:  "The fact is that everything that your conscious mind has yet to discover about your characters and story is already fully formed in your unconscious mind.  It's been there since the moment the first hint of the story surfaced."

I'm not sure how I feel about that. Do I create or does the character dictate to me?

In order to see the story and the characters fully formed, I need

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