Monday, March 2, 2009

To Move Forward, Look Back

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."
~Winston Churchill

I can't attribute breaking through my writer's block to only putting my novel aside for a few weeks. Over the past month, as I tried writing - or working through my writing - in my head, I realized I was stuck because I still needed to know more about my characters, specific details about their past and not just generalities.

Developing my character sketches is one route, but I'm taking Ginger's advice (from a comment posted to an earlier post), and developing stories out of my character's background/history.

Right now, I'm working on Anne's childhood, specifically a story about dealing with the pain of losing her mother when she was eight-years-old. Ideas keep bubbling over, of things I should include, of things that will affect who she will become when she turns 18 and goes to Paris - and learns that what she once thought about her mother's death was completely false.

The issue I'm running into now is the complete opposite. I feel like I have too much information to include in the short story. (Don't get me wrong; I'd take this "obstacle" any day). Where does this story begin? End? Do I include Anne's struggles in making friends, partially due to her mother raising Anne to speak French and not English? Since I know her mother isn't really dead, as Anne believes, do I hint at it? Do I use third-person or first? (Since my novel is in third-person, I'm inclined to use that, but as I write this first short story of many, I find myself shifting back and forth between third and first... which is interesting considering the novel and how Anne switches between her own perspective and Charlotte's... definitely something to think about more).

My solution - for now - is to get down everything I can, and then start chopping the really unnneccesary stuff (and putting it in a separate file for possible later use in my novel).

It's interesting, "getting to know" characters, delving into their pasts, their histories, as if they existed. I once heard that a professor/author had a conversation with a passenger in his car late at night. It wasn't until he got home that he realized he was talking to a "character" from his novel. Creepy - in that he was really talking to himself, but interesting - in that all writers, I think, need to be able to "speak" to their characters, know how they'd react and what they'd say in any given situation, if they are really going to develop and depict characters that readers can truly believe in.

So, for me, I'm looking backwards, developing my character's backgrounds even more so that I can move forward in my character's life.

Sidenote: If anyone knows who that author was, that had that "conversation" with his character, please remind me, because it's really bothering me that I don't remember!


Chuck Dilmore said...

Ahh... you are puzzling - where to start, how much detail, where to finish. These are all wonderful puzzlers! And you're right - good problems to have. Too many ideas.

I can relate... so I just keep writing. And as I get to that 60K word mark, things start to get clearer. Things that I thought might unfold did not. Things that I hinted at now have an opportunity to see the light!

I say: Keep Going! Make Your Fingers Happy!

Nice post - thank you!

Watch the birth of a book:

Liz S said...

"Puzzlers" - wonderful word!

Chuck Dilmore said...

Thanks for your visit and comment, Liz!

I'm toying with taking Friday as a vacation day... just to write all day long! And i look forward to see what you're working on! Set your soul free!

peace & happy penning~

Sarah Jensen said...

What a great idea Liz! I'm going to do this on a WIP i'm stuck on. In the past, the stories have just been there, this one, i got stuck a little more than halfway through
and now i have an out...
Thank you!
And thanks for your comment at If You Give a Girl...

Liz said...

I've got to try this. Hope you work it out!