Yesterday I printed out all three stories I’ve been working on this fall so that I could read them and begin the necessary work of getting back into my writing habit. I was so busy last semester with my teaching load that my writing got put on hold towards the end.
In addition to that, I felt stymied because I didn’t know what I wanted to be writing. I had several started drafts at once, and felt pulled in multiple directions. I had finished my novel, and the editing process (for now) and felt like I was back at the beginning, trying to retrace my steps but forgetting the path. I did some of the same things I did before, casting my characters on Pinterest, laying out the acts and the Inciting Incident and all of the crucial steps, but I was still lost and floundering. I knew I had good ideas, and they had the power to be complete stories, but I felt none of the motivation I had previously to tell the story. I felt like I didn’t know my characters very well at all.
For me, character comes out of conflict. I have a harder time with plotting than with coming up with interesting characters. I could spend all day describing and dressing my characters, giving them names and backstories and quirky traits. But I have a harder time knowing what their story will be. So I start with the harder stuff: figuring out what the central conflict is. Then, I look at the conflict and try to figure out what kinds of characters might be involved in that conflict. From there, I figure out where that character’s motivations and goals collide with the conflict. And I can work backwards to flesh out their character from that.
I finally realized, after lots of pondering and stewing and re-reading of my first pages that I had two great characters but nothing for them to do. So, I at last harped on my conflict, and must now go back to the discovery stage so I can work out the changes that this conflict will mean on my characters. Wish me luck! It’s scary to realize you messed up and have to start over! But, falling down and getting back up is part of the process.
Now, I’m going to write for 20 minutes because that is how I ease myself back in, and avoid too much procrastination. You can do anything for 20 minutes!