Creativity Sessions: Let Your Characters Write the Story

I forget sometimes that others can help pull you out of creative ruts. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to finish Manuscript: Alpha of “Jaed and Aston” this week, mostly by telling my alpha readers that I was almost done.

Then, I hit a narrative point that felt messy and too drawn out. I fussed over wording, I tried to find a shortcut (which I do not like admitting), I brainstormed a whole bunch. And then I happened upon an interview that gave me the jolt I needed.

Watch that first video, and then watch the other three. Louis C.K. has always been an inspirational force in storytelling for me. He just seems to get what it’s about, whether it’s through his comedy (I’ve seen him live twice) or his TV shows (I have yet to watch Horace and Pete, which I feel is a sin).

During his interview with Charlie Rose in April, Louis discusses writing a particularly remarkable scene for Horace and Pete. Rose asks him if he planned on the scene going in a particular direction, and Louis describes how he wanted a character to say a particular line. That’s all he started with, but then his mind went to how the other character would react — what would they think, what would they say? He continued writing in this manner until he had a fully-fleshed, very real, and quite poignant scene of dialogue.

That is fascinating to me. Every writer wants to feel like they are writing through their characters, but that is much easier said than done. I took his words to heart. In trying to force the narrative point in my story to go in the direction I thought it should go, I was no longer listening to my characters. The question is not how my characters should react, but how they would react, based on the personalities, the fears, the motives that I’ve created for them.

So I scrapped the narrative build-up I had in place. I went lean and got right to the point in that narrative thread, because it felt more natural for both the plot and my characters.

As Louis says, “You create the people and the world and you see if it writes.” 168,000 words tells me that my characters and my world writes. I just need to remember to allow them to write.

A much welcome day off tomorrow (with no significant travel plans until later) will go a long way towards getting this thing finished in the next few days. I’m trying not to disappear completely, but you know how these things go. Happy 4th of July!

Steve D

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