♣Show don’t tell. Use active voice. Create high stakes. Write diverse characters. Don’t use prologues. Draw your reader in within the first page if not the first line, make sure your character has a strong voice. No pressure.
It’s hard enough to gain recognition as an author in a sea of voices wanting to be heard. Then tack on all the unwritten, ever-changing rules of writing and it’s easy to feel hopeless about your work. Writing is such a journey. I’ve learned so much along the way that sometimes I feel like it’s spilling out my ears and other times I feel like it’s wound itself into my DNA. So here is the latest of my epiphanies.
I think I’m finally learning how to capture it. I’ve been to workshops and conferences. I’ve heard agents preaching voice, voice, voice. I’ve received rejections saying my work lacks it. But it’s hard to fix something you don’t understand in the first place.
There is the surface understanding of things like voice and the ability to write emotion. We can plug words into a formula and try to manufacture it but that usually ends up flat and one dimensional. There is another level of writing, however, that taps into humanity. This method of writing cannot be broken down into an equation. It can hardly be explained. It can only be felt and understood. I’m starting to do that.
Did you know that when you dream of people you do not recognize, none of them are made up? They are all reflections of random strangers, or combinations thereof, that you have seen throughout your life time.
People Watching and Reading
I’ve been picking up books at garage sales and little book shacks like the one to your right. Akkk! Isn’t it adorable? I want one!!! And I’m absorbing techniques, examining what works and what doesn’t. Heaven knows there’s plenty of both out there. You see, I’ve made the mistake of many. I’ve tried to create my characters from scratch so they would be unique, from my mind only. Herein lies the problem: although there may be many sides of me, I am limited in the number of personalities I can offer. Yet, there are an endless number of characters out there that we can draw from.
Did you know that when you dream none of the strangers in your dreams are made up? They are all reflections of random people, or combinations thereof, that you have seen throughout your lifetime. We can use the same method as our subconscious to create our characters! People watching is a fantastic way to do this. Go to the pool or a museum or the beach and bring a notepad. Listen, watch and WRITE! Pick up speech impediments, attitudes, facial expressions, accents, catch phrases, little annoying ticks. Use them to create your characters, make them a relief that stands off the page, multi dimensional characters. Then when they feel emotions, because they are real, we care about them. Two birds with one stone. I’ve been writing flat characters, ones you can see on the surface but nothing more. I think I finally understand how to change that and HOT TABASCO it feels good.
So, get out there. Watch your grandma and the mailman and the cashier at the gas station and that creepy guy who’s always sitting in the Subway restaurant at Walmart, never eating anything. Write about them. Talk to them. Ask them questions and then put them to work for you!
You’re a spy. Who will you watch first?