Monday, April 28, 2008

Understanding character

Starting fresh on Monday morning, and that sense of momentum from last week isn't there. I think Chapter 7 is going to take longer than a couple of days. It might even go very slowly. But I'm not feeling worried about it. Right now it feels similar to how slowly it was all going over most of the winter, but different in an important respect--I feel like I know what the work is and why it's going slowly. I know what I need to be working on.

Essentially--for today at least--I'm trying to imagine what the consequences are of plot developments that have been added into previous chapters. And since the really meaningful consequences are how the characters feel about it and deal with it, I have to understand the characters. Of course, I understood them before, but the bar keeps getting raised as the story gets deeper and more complex. You have to imagine them more vividly--make them more and more real in your imagination.

So today I was looking at one scene that was very superficial in the first draft and asking myself how would these people really feel about what has happened and what would they do in this scene? It's all about being as honest as possible.

One trick I have when I'm stuck--I think I wrote about this last summer--is to actually get up out of my writing chair and walk around imagining I'm in the room in that scene. I don't talk to myself exactly, but almost. I physically make the gestures I imagine them making. Try to set my hips and shoulders and eyes in the same way. And then I imagine the tone of their voices. I usually only have to do that for a couple seconds and then what they would say next comes to me and I jump back in my chair and start writing again.

Over all, I only dealt with about two pages, and I think there's going to be a lot of similar work in this chapter.

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