It’s vital that we, as storytellers, understand what ALL our characters (major and minor) want and need. If you have a cast of passionate characters, passionate about willy-nilly things, a story can get befuddling and difficult. Unless their passion circles the same topic the story wanders off in too many directions and then a reader gets lost.
For example, I recently read a manuscript wherein one character was passionate about rebuilding old cars, another passionate about remodeling kitchens, and a third passionate about going to day spas. Okay, interesting. Unfortunately these three passions never intersected in the story. I suggested to the writer that if all three could meet as a result of vintage cars, remodeling, or at a day spa, then they could bond over that single shared passion, the crime could have something to do with that, and so on. But instead the reader was sent in three different directions, down three separate roads only to wonder why and then quickly get tired of the story.
When I realized that the cast of characters in my upcoming novel, all of whom are holocaust survivors, all had the same needs (safety, community, nourishment, etc.) I had to write them with conflicting wants or the story would be boring (remember, wants and needs are VERY different) – some want to remember while others will do anything to forget. Some seek justice while others have lost hope in the jurisdiction of this world. Some seek the truth while others see only lies – and so on. These conflicting desires surrounding the same topic (the holocaust/concentration camp survival) create conflict no matter what else is happening. That tension filled topic is at the core of my story and keeps the spokes of my story-wheel spinning all in the same direction.
So remember, know the wants and needs of your characters and ALWAYS create conflict on every page.
Here’s a great article from K.M. Weiland on The Thing Your Character Wants VS The Thing Your Character Needs.
It’s writing conference season and this year I miss not being at one. I love the classes and the social get-togethers with my tribe of like-minded scribes. I’m getting tweets and other social media pings from my friends at Willamette Writers conference (wish I was there) as I did from the PNWA conference last week. Though, full disclaimer, I did go to the one day Christopher Vogler (www.thewritersjourney.com) workshop last week in Seattle which of course was great. Anyway, I’m not attending conferences this year because of several reasons but mainly I need to write. I have discovered that my novel will not write itself. Damn thing!
And though I am missing the conference reenergizing vibe, and I am getting some work done (a writer’s gotta write) I’m also prepping a new class. This year I will be teaching some ongoing writing courses at Edmonds Community College which I’m looking forward to. My 2nd class (already taught one last month) will start in September and is all about using plot devices in writing.
How Objects Help Tell a Story is a 5-week course starting Sept. 20th to Oct. 18th.
The blurb: What’s Lord of the Rings without the ring or Cinderella without her glass slippers? These iconic objects are shorthand for legendary stories that couldn’t be told without them. Well-crafted objects (plot devices) in fiction or non-fiction writing can establish a character’s values, inform their choices and actions and thus the story. Learn to create a narrative for an object in a character’s life, how that object can be backstory shorthand, enhance storytelling, help eliminate pages of narration, and tell a more layered story….
Please join me each week at Edmonds CC …to sign up please click here.
And if you’re at a writers conference this week, go ahead and tweet me, though I’m already jealous, I’m happy to live vicariously. So have fun, make great contacts and pitch your work to everyone you can. Good luck. Cheers, Mindy
Please share, tweet it out, find me at @MindyHalleck
As an author and cancer survivor I believe writing aids us in understanding life’s challenges, and that through understanding we become better writers. When we translate painful or confusing events from the unspoken into written language we alter our perceptions and fundamentally make the experience graspable. You can heal the body by … Continue reading How Writing Your Truth Can Help You Heal