Saturday, March 14, 2009

The magic of writing

Earlier this week, I ended my daily pages with a line of dialogue, but I didn't know who said it.

I told my husband about it and he had looked at me strangely and asked, "How can you have a character speak without knowing who he is?"

Well, the truth is, I often think I'm actually taking dictation from my subconscious. And my subconscious knew that my main character needed to interact with someone. None of the 'someones' I've already created would do, so out popped that line of dialogue.

I used to think I had a purely linear approach to my writing. Start with a concept, build the plot and charge ahead until the end.

And it's true, I do write linearly, in that I can't plan to write scenes out of order. But I've come to believe more in what I call "the ripples method".

A character or a situation is the proverbial stone in the pond. Then each ripple is a concentric ring of information/depth/plot that needs to be created, starting from the middle and working outward.

This probably makes no sense outside of my brain, but I'll try to illustrate.

So, my new character drops a line of dialogue into the manuscript, into what my main character, Lydia, thinks is solitude where she wonders:

“Who am I?” she whispered.

“That is an excellent question.”

At the time, I had no idea who answered her and why.

The first concentric ring encompasses the immediate scene:
--who is the speaker? --how does he relate to Lydia? --what's his name/voice?

The second ring encompasses this character's personal history:
--why is he in the maze? --what keeps him in the maze?

The third ring encompasses the character's role in the larger story:
--whose side is he on? --how will he help/hinder the protagonist?

As I answer these questions, my understand of this character expands to enhance my understanding of the whole world, its history, and the entire plot arc.

It took some brainstorming, but Aeon is now a full character, with a history and a role in the story as a whole.

And boy, is he a fun character to write.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, that is magic. I love when a story I'm writing surprises me with an unexpected twist, turn, or character.

    Others, who do not write, often do not understand how something you are writing, something you seem to have complete control over, can take on a life of its own and "force" you to go in another direction or do things you never planned.

    Its funny how events and characters come about own their own and do as they will and all you can do is tag along to see what happens. Well, sometimes its funny.