A Writer’s Benediction
May this year be full of beautiful, colorful, rich, compelling characters: brand new imaginary people who will save the hearts of children and bolster the dreams of adults. They’re waiting in the wings, ready for their moment. Maybe they’ve been waiting for centuries. Maybe they were waiting for you.
When writing characters, remember to consider not only their personalities but their psychological development. Not every character has to fit a completely different temperament profile. It is possible to have two extroverted optimists in the same story and keep them unique by homing in on where they are in life: make Character A young, naive, and dreamy and make Character B wise, determined, and practical.
This would be a good exercise. Pick three or four personality descriptors and apply them to two characters. Focus on differentiating them based on how their age/culture/class/history has influenced their psychological development.
I laugh at the people who don’t know I’m scribbling their quirks and eccentricities down on my napkin. They have become but fodder for my insatiable imagination. This is the price people pay for being interesting in my general vicinity.
My friends complain that I don’t talk enough. It’s true, I am terrible at small talk. I am 90% certain that this comes from editing out characters’ unnecessary dialogue. When you spend your life cutting every comment that doesn’t move the story forward, it becomes difficult to sit and chat about the weather and your health . . .
I want to write a memoir, but the only part of my life worth writing about is the only part that must remain a secret. So I will continue to write fiction, telling truths about myself through the mouths of imaginary people.
The Doughnut Principle:
If you can substitute a character in a book or film with a doughnut and still have the plot make sense, it is probably a poorly constructed character.
Your muse is a jealous lover, and the pact you enter into with her is dangerous, all-consuming, and demands your dedication. She won’t be cast aside and wait patiently for you to return to her. She’ll snatch you away from more pressing matters with a sudden burst of inspiration and that itch to write at the base of your skull. Or she’ll leave you, let you stagnate in front of a blank page for weeks, if you do not give her the constant attention that she demands.
To appease my muse, I think I will go to a cafe and sit quietly and listen to her, pen in hand, free from other distractions. Maybe then she’ll learn to love me again . . .
The thing a writer must remember in every situation is that the Human Story is at the core. Whether it is an epic novel or a news article, if there is no humanity, no one will remember it.
After watching Fight Club for the first time last night, I have found it necessary to completely revamp my latest story idea due to an unforeseen glaring similarity to the movie. This has happened to me many times, including the time I was dissuaded from writing about an orphaned character with a scar on his forehead which hurt at the approach of supernatural danger after I discovered Harry Potter.
The moral of this story: no matter how original your work is, there will always be an Evil Twin out there somewhere, waiting to pour deluges of potential copyright infringements on your Muse’s head.
Sometimes it strikes me that every person I know, speak with, or pass on the street is the main character of their own story, and each story is an intimate, sweeping, poignant epic in which I am lucky enough to be an extra, a walk-on, a sidekick, a love interest, or maybe even a villain…