Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Avoided Moments

Years ago I heard Richard Peck say, “You learn the most from the experience you would have avoided if you could.” In the same keynote address I also heard him say, “You are only as good as your opening line”. Although the second quote is one of my favorite, that will have to be a discussion for another post.

Think about the experience you would have avoided if you could. We all have things in our lives that fit this description. What emotion is connected to that experience? What would you have done to avoid it if we had known it was coming? Who would you be now, if that experience had not existed in your life?

Your character needs an experience like that. They need to be faced with something so terrible or terrifying that they would have avoided it at all cost. Maybe they are trying to avoid it. Perhaps they know, and understand what is at stake.

How do we help our character find that experience? Is it something we have experienced in our own lives and know about? Not always. Maybe you are experiencing this situation for the first time through your character and are trying to understand the emotions connected to this experience.

I’ve been trying to create a character that is dominating and has an entire community under his thumb. He would have to be so controlling and scary that nobody dared cross him. The problem is, fortunately, I’ve never experienced such dominion. However, as I’ve struggled with this character, I realized that there are moments in my life when I was terrified of a situation or person. Especially as a child. I’ve examined those experiences and the emotions that go with them and tried to transfer them to this fictional character that plays such a critical role in my novel.
Transferring these emotions does not mean transferring the exact experience. But the emotions can help you to create this character and give him real traits. You will better know how the characters around him will react as you pull from these emotions and then interview your characters. All your characters. How are they feeling? What are they thinking? How will that cause them to react to the particular rough spot where you have led them?

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Melanie! I saw this post on InkPageant. I didn't know you had a blog!
    What a great post--so true. I think sometimes it's fun to write the good happy moments when things are light hearted and funny and going good for our characters, but it's those moments that they wish would never happen or never had happened that really make our characters real.