Mood: Productive & Inspired

Currently Listening to: Machine Gun by Portishead

So, you’d think by now I would know my characters inside and out. After all, they’re figments of my overactive imagination. But alas, at times, it’s as if we’ve never met.

As I headed out on yesterday to do some time at Starbucks writing before an afternoon meeting, I grabbed a book off my bookshelf to take with me. The book in question was a writing book. When I first decided to write a novel a few years ago, I started reading every how to book in existence before realizing that I just needed to do it (and block out all the “advice” I’d gleaned from the books). For the most part they’re all collecting dust now, but there are a couple that have some great writing exercises when you need a spark of creativity or a break from the tedium of whatever you’re supposed to be working on.

So, I grabbed Now Write: Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writers & Teachers. It’s exactly what the title says it is. Each exercise is briefly introduced by the writer/teacher and then the exercise is presented. The book has sections on getting started, POV, character development, dialogue, pacing, revision, etc. I tend to just flip through the book for what I need at the time. I’ve never actually read through the whole thing.

As I sat in Starbucks avoiding figuring out why my main character was about to do what she was going to do, I flipped to the character development exercises and found a great exercise by Edie Meidav. Essentially it’s about how writers are not confined to the people/personalities they know when creating a character. You don’t have to write what you know (God, I hate that idea. So, boring!). Writing is your chance to live out lives that you can only imagine. It’s also about how the space & time in which we live (or, our characters live) shape the person we/they are. The exercise itself is like a character interview, but different. You’re supposed to sit in a area with a lot of people who are coming and going, or waiting. The idea is to pick one of them and then answer some questions about what you imagine is in their refrigerator, on their bed, what their dream jobs and partners are, etc.

Since I know something about my characters, I decided to do this using them rather than a real person, since I’m more interested in my character’s imaginary lives than a real person’s imaginary life. I know it sounds a lot like basic interview character development exercises, but for some reason those always bore me. I feel like I’m just listing things to fill in the form without really getting into my character’s head. For some reason, this exercise works so much better for me. Maybe it’s just because the questions are deeper than the standard likes & dislikes, and what is your earliest childhood memory (although, the later is included on Meidav’s list). So, have been working on answering all these questions for all my characters. It’s slow going, but I feel like it’s helping me think through some things that I know I need to address. And it’s probably just good that I’m taking a step back from the story (even if I am woefully behind!) and looking at some of the details that I’ve been avoiding/struggling to figure out.