I meant REALLY listen!
I had a really great phone convo with one of my dear writer friends last night. We hadn’t chatted in a while, and it felt good to catch up. We know each others’ writing weaknesses, and she helps me so much (I can only hope it’s mutual!). We talked about life and stories, and she encouraged me to keep growing as a writer, which will lead to some necessary tweaking in my narrative.
I caught a glimmer of golden truth today when I had a chance to scribble some thoughts down. It was a truth that I knew well, but it still hadn’t sunk in.
I was continuing with an already written scene, but I started in a completely clean document. This seemed to clear my head and give me fresh perspective, because all of a sudden I realized that the drama I’d been trying to infuse earlier in the scene was just there because that is how I THOUGHT she might act. My main character is given to flights of fancy, and though she may have dramatic reactions, she is not a drama queen, per se, when the chips are down. I realized (again) that instead of collapsing in on herself and running home to be safe, she would instead just keep on going with the fun she was planning on having, and think about the tough stuff later. She doesn’t really like to put off thinking about things, but when things can’t be addressed til later, she is willing to go past it for the time being.
It’s like reading a real person, except that she’s built inside my head, which makes it even harder because YOU are the point of reference. This means I have to push past the ways I might react to something (or might expect a certain character to react), and really pay attention to what the character would actually do. However, this requires a lot of deep-level thinking. It’s pushing past all the excess stuff and just writing from your gut.
This is the heart of originality, I believe. If something is coming from the heart, how can it be trite if it is fortified by truth, and embodies the very essence of the writer her/himself? Someone once told me that there are no original plots, characters, or story tropes out there: it’s the author’s unique view of them that makes something fresh and new.
I have to keep telling myself that drama will BE there if I put my characters through important learning situations. I do not have to inject drama everywhere a heroine might be expected to react histrionically. By staying true to my character’s nature, I will in turn stay true to her. And to my story.
As I said, I knew this already, but it’s easier said than done. 😛