Pig Identity–Do You Write in Character?

My two-year-old granddaughter is obsessed with pigs. She loves to draw pigs, read about pigs, she even likes to dress up like a pig. I bet if someone asked her she’d say her favourite book was “The Three Little Pigs.” The week she visited with us, she wore her pig hat most of her waking hours. At night, she’d often wake and cry, “Want to be a pig.” Oh yeah, she’s got a real pig identity problem.

As a writer, I can relate to how she feels. When my writing is going well, and the story is flowing, it usually means I’m writing in character.  What’s writing in character? Simple. As events pop up along the way, I feel the character’s emotions, as surely as if I were that character. Now, I don’t usually feel the need to dress up, but I’ve heard of some writers who do, to make their writing feel more authentic. I’m no one to judge, if it helps someone make it through a scene I’m all for it.

Personally speaking, writing in character provides me with insights into the thoughts, emotions and actions of the characters, but it doesn’t mean the story will automatically write itself. Oh no, there’s a little bit more to it than that. For me, character is important, as important to the story as the people in my life. When I’m out and about in the world, the things I do always seem to pale in comparison to the interaction with the people involved. I know not everyone shares this sentiment. That’s okay. There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that goes like this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  This kind of sums up the way I feel about the characters I write. At the end of the book, I’d like them to be remembered for the way they made you, as a reader, feel.

So, like any two-year-old, Miss Charlotte might sometimes be a bit confused about the character she’s portraying and exactly which way she’s headed, the laughs and giggles she presents us with is what we’ll remember the most. In a few days she’ll be bringing her mom for another visit, and while I’m not sure if the pig hat is still part of her everyday apparel, I’ll always look back with fondness at those days when nothing seemed more important to her than her declaration of, “Want to be a pig!”

Writers, do you always know which way your character is going or do you show up and wait to see what happens? Do you ever write in character?

Something in the Middle of Nowhere

We never really know what we’ll stumble across during our travels, or exactly where that path is leading us. Sometimes we just need to have faith that the path we’re heading down will eventually lead us to where we need to be. Sometimes the getting there is a bit scary and the path filled with rocks and hummocks. Still, we keep going because standing in one spot won’t get us anywhere. Guaranteed.

Writers often speak of the path we’re on, but the truth is we’re all on a path not just writers. We all face obstacles that can either hinder our travels or help us along the way, things we never expected to find. With that said, it’s always up to us to either use these obstacles to our advantage, ignore them completely, or we can choose to allow them to hold us back. I’m not saying it’s easy.  We all know that it can be darn tough by times.

Here’s a little something I found the other day deep in the woods, the middle of nowhere really. As I stood looking at this cabin my writer’s brain couldn’t stop me from dreaming, imagining, and placing my character right in the middle of it all. This is where I found her voice. Scenarios came rushing to me, and I knew immediately I would be able to put them to good use.

The problem sometimes with this is that while I’m in the moment, ideas flow freely; excitement builds as sentences and dialogue come form in my mind. I could write many, many words if only I were writing. Later, as I try and recreate these scenes on paper those moments feel a bit lost. It takes awhile to get them back. This is why I carry my camera with me most of the time. Having a photo is second best to actually being there.

Just for fun, and because the weekends coming up, (whatever that would have to do with it) can you come up with a line or two or even three to go with this photo? Make me laugh, make me cry, make me wonder what the heck..I’m just in that kind of mood today…I’ll see you on Monday…Enjoy your weekend..:)

 

New Discoveries

A quick check yesterday on the robin’s nest left me feeling a bit sad. The nest was empty. Not an egg or baby bird in sight. I had hopes of getting a photo of the babies but it wasn’t meant to be.

As a consolation I’m posting eggs from a partridge nest we discovered today, and another nest that might possibly belong to an English sparrow but we’re not sure. I’m hoping these two mamas have better luck than mother robin especially since both nests are on the ground. Still, undoubtedly, there are survivors each year. I’ll be hoping. Unfortunately, I probably won’t have the opportunity to find out for sure. I don’t expect to be back in that area again for quite a few months. Perhaps it is just as well.

A partridge nest nestled beneath a fir tree.

Possibly an English sparrow nest.

I’ve also discovered some older writing files recently with stories I abandoned a number of years ago. I’m in the process of reading the stories and deciding if I want to start working at them again. One of the stories I stopped working on because someone made a remark that discouraged me at the time. The person who made the remark wasn’t trying to be cruel. It really had nothing to do with the story. The person was my mum. She was worried that the story would one day be published and she didn’t like a few of the words spoken by one character in the story.

Looking back now, I never should have let her read my WIP. It wasn’t fair of me to ask her opinion. I was expecting an unbiased opinion and I now realize she wouldn’t have been able to give it to me. Today, those same remarks wouldn’t have discouraged me from continuing. I’ve also discovered that I’ve gained much more confidence in my writing. It took some time for me to get to this point, but I now know that nothing anyone can say will stop me from working on a story that I feel is worth working on.

Have you made any new discoveries recently?

What a Character

I usually credit my mother for my love of reading, for instilling in me a love for books at an early age. Nothing was more exciting to me then having her read to my brother and I when we were growing up. (There’s a photo of her in the book launch pictures right under the Bitter, Sweet tab.)

Considering the fact that she is legally blind, it might seem like a strange pastime to some. There was a time when she could see the printed words by removing her glasses and holding the book up close, but with cataract surgery about ten years ago, she now reads with the use of a special magnifier. It takes her longer to read that way, but it’s hard to keep a good reader down.

No one gets into a story more than my mother. I sometimes swear she thinks the characters she reads about are real. They make her laugh and cry, and as angry as a riled hornet. Yes folks, she sometimes sputters when a specific character behaves in a way she doesn’t approve of and, I’m always the one to hear about it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing. In fact, I know she’s not the only one who becomes emotionally involved to that extent. I had many people tell me they how annoyed they were with a particular character in Bitter, Sweet. And while that character annoyed me to the fullest, I didn’t hate him for being flawed. I even found myself more understanding of him than I likely would have been if he were someone I knew in real life.

It is a writer’s job to write the story without bias. When a character gets under our skin, and acts out in ways that seem inappropriate, it is not up to us to stand in judgement, nor do we jump in and make them change their actions with a few quick strokes of the pen. Or should I say keyboard? It is simply up to us to tell the story– to say, this is what happened. This is the story.

Now, while my mum would probably like to change a few plot lines in the books she reads (and I’m sure she’s not the only one) I think that you’ll agree that catching our readers and pulling them into our stories, emotionally involving them in these worlds we have created, is a very good thing indeed.

How emotionally involved to you become with the characters in the books you read or have written? Do you feel their pain? Would you like to give them a swift kick sometimes? Is feeling an emotional response more important to you than the plot or do you think both are equally important?

What To Do With Those Pointless Scenes

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. ——–Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I have to admit I really do believe in the above words. Mind you, I might not always like admitting that everything in life has a purpose especially those times when I’m not so happy with the way things are going. Still, I try and concentrate on the end result during those times and not necessarily the process. As humans we’re like that. When things are going along smoothly we’re on top of the world, life couldn’t get much better. We’re brimming with happiness, smiling at the world, and spinning on our toes while doing so.

For a writer, it’s much like finding just the right story line, the proper voice, and off we go making words, sentences and paragraphs, spinning our magnificent tales for the whole world to read. When words are flowing, nothing could be better.

But then we bump up against something we hadn’t anticipated and the words rapidly grow stale, our sudden burst of happiness falls flat. We wake up one morning only to discover that wonderful plot line isn’t nearly as wonderful as we initially thought.

Not surprisingly, the moment life becomes uncomfortable we’re complaining and griping. Okay, just so you know, I do my share of griping and complaining. I won’t pretend I don’t. Just because you don’t hear me doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments. Just ask my husband. Hmmm…. on second thought, maybe not.

Eventually we get tired of hearing ourselves complain. Complaining is a useless commodity. Not to mention that those around us start tearing off in the opposite direction the moment they see us coming. (And who can blame them. Right?)

So we can either fix what’s not working or cut it loose from our lives.

The same is true for those ineffective storylines, those once glorious magnificent scenes, those delightful words that initially made our heads spin—(who knew we were that clever?) If it’s just not working, those sentences, paragraphs, pages, need to be chopped either by you or by your editor. Ouch!

And guess what? No amount of griping and complaining over those cut scenes will make it feel any less painful.

I often need to remind myself that everything in life has a purpose, the same way that every scene in a novel must have a purpose, a reason for it being there in the first place.

Today, I am considering the purpose of some earlier scenes I have written and yes, I’m prepared to have them removed if need be. I’ll rearrange my character’s life and start all over if I must. My character has a strong voice; she’ll let me know what needs to be said, what parts of her story need to be written. It might take me awhile to sift through her life but I’ll eventually weed out any of those unnecessary scenes. I’ll make it to the heart of the story.

If only real life were that simple.

So, here are some really tough questions. If you could, would you rewrite you own life’s story? Would you cut out the pointless scenes? add a few extra scenes? Or, do you accept what Elisabeth Krubler-Ross had to say, that everything in life has a purpose?

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