Delusions of Grandeur, a Moment in Character, Emotional Acres

November 9, 2012

I AM TOTALLY COMPLETELY IN LOVE WITH MY NOVEL! I've never liked writing a story as much as this. It should be noted that I'm only 4k words in. WAY behind by NaNoWriMo standards. I started late because I wanted to get farther along with my planning, and I'm glad I did. I'm hoping to catch up to 50k, but I'm more worried about getting it write than hitting that number by December.

I've written from outlines before, but this one is something I'm finally excited to write and tell people about. This is why I always advise going crazy and telling the story you want to tell. I'm having so much fun.

My head is inflated, and I'm sure as I dig into the next few weeks, I will struggle and suffer mightily. Until then, here's a character moment I had two nights ago.

I was frustrated because one of my characters (Lily) was becoming increasingly 0ne dimensional. She was a throw away character, one that was supposed to simply disrupt a marriage, like Mars crashing into the Earth and spitting up the Moon. But it was fake. It was easy. She was a faceless Southern Belle, and there was no depth.

I didn't know what to do, so I started playing with other dimensions to add to her character, or other versions of her story. Then I had a moment. This may seem obvious, but it is a rule I will try to maintain through all my writing:

Characters are not just details. Every character has his/her own story. 

Stories are about change. Change is so good and necessary in stories (and life). Every character has an arc.

I had to figure out Lily's story. Who is she? Where'd she come from? Where is she going? Lily plays perfectly into another role I have been planning for later on in the novel, and connecting those dots formed a beautiful arc: Lily's arc. I like her so much more than the couple I thought I was writing about. Hello, Lily, it's wonderful to have you. I am very pleased to have stumbled upon her story, and happy she could show me the way.

I just started Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. She talks about character development in terms of an "emotional acre." The idea is that everyone has an emotional acre of land, on which we can do whatever we want. We could build a house or a pool or a junkyard or grow banana trees or play skeeball. My emotional acre would be covered with books and video games, electronic music, trampolines, a basketball hoop, family, friends. It'd have amazing WiFi and too many posters. Everyone would be jealous.

Lamott says we need to get to know our characters' emotional acres. They start out simple, but they develop as you get a sense for what he/she holds dear and values emotionally. Framed pictures of children. A stuffed animal from childhood. She uses another visual metaphor, a polaroid picture, to talk about how they come into focus as we think, plan, or write about them.

One last piece of NaNoWriMo advice. Get off the internet and write! And check out these other tips.

Good luck with your writing. I'm getting back to mine.

Russell Matney

Russell Matney

Writing, Stories, Software, Indie Games


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