Friday, January 16, 2009

Learning Quirks

I had an epiphany yesterday. I've really been struggling with "A Jewel for Geoff" and I couldn't figure out why. I have the basic story in my head. I know the ending. I have a couple dozen scene ideas. I did all the pre-work. So why is getting the words down so difficult?

Two days ago, I cranked out more than 1,000 words on the novel I just submitted. Just a quick scene addition that slid fluidly into place with no real need to edit elsewhere (thankfully), but that added the reason for another--very necessary--scene to have happened. It was easy. I did it in a matter of minutes. It has drama and emotion and a little goofiness, and it rolled off my fingers.

So, why was that so easy, and writing AJFG worse than pulling teeth?

Because I knew those characters inside and out. Knew them, their motivation, their thoughts.

Because, despite having written about Geoff in "One Love for Liv", I didn't really get to know him. I knew he was a stuffed shirt with a good heart, but not much more than that.

Today, I'm writing miscellaneous scenes with Geoff, something I should have done before I started. I like to write scenes with my characters doing a day-to-day task (for instance, in the novel I submitted, I wrote a scene with my heroine vacuuming the floor of her new apartment, and in another WIP, I wrote a scene with my heroine taking a shower and getting dressed for work) Sometimes they get used in the actual work (the shower scene did) and sometimes they don't (the vacuuming scene didn't). But they all have the power to show me small things about my characters. No one showers the same, or even vacuums the same. No one grocery shops the same, washes the car, folds the laundry, or grooms the dog the same. We all have quirks.

So, now I'm off to write about Geoff doing... something. I think I'll put him in his condo, but I'm not sure what I'll have him do. He's quite fastidious, but I don't imagine he does his own cleaning. OTOH, I picture him as being embarrassed at having the place a mess for the maid, and may clean up before she arrives.

Hmmm.... See -- already learned something new.


Dru said...

I love the idea of using day-to-day chores to make a scene work for you and/or move the story forward.

Reading about this step you take put a smile on my face because I could see you itching to get those thoughts down on paper and expand that storyline.

Good luck with your progress.

Joanie said...

I've had this problem before, and one of the ways I combatted it was to go back to the questions in my "character sketches" for the MCs in my wip and instead of filling out the character sketches as the writer writing about my characters, I "let" the characters fill the sketches out about themselves. While it may seem like a little change, that letting loose of the control, and giving the control and voice to the characters tell who they are and why certain points were the most important events in their lives really frees me up to hear my characters in their own voices. Plus, I can usually use more of the character sketches in the wip, as "their answers" can often be added verbatum as dialogue.

Good job on recognizing a new angle. I'm going to try your approach soon and see where it takes me!

Amy said...

I think writers can get into a lot of trouble by not honoring their process. I know every time I've gone astray from my process, I wind up with a mess.

Good luck!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I end up doing a lot of this playing. I have a hard time disciplining myself to throw out these scenes, though.

I end up liking them a lot and then not understanding why no one else sees them fitting in! ;-)

I'm glad you're getting unstuck with AJFG

Keri Mikulski said...

It's tough to really dig into characters. It becomes an obsession. Love the idea of the scenes.. :)