Thursday, January 24, 2008

But what's my motivation, dahling?

After hitting a bit of a brick wall, writing-wise, I decided to sit my main character down and ask her some questions. Like a therapist, or an interviewer from The Times, or The Independent. Not one from Heat magazine. They'd probably ask her who she'd grope if she was invisible for a day, or whether she'd ever had a threesome - although I suppose the answers could have been equally revealing!

No, I wanted a proper, in-depth Q&A session, along the lines of:

"So, Harriet. How did it all start?

"What did you do?"

"How did you feel, when you found out?"

"Why did you react that way, instead of simply confronting them?"

"Then what happened?"

And you know what. It actually worked, really well. I typed about 20 sheets altogether - there's literally no end to my procrastination tactics - and as Harriet's answers unfurled I began to see meaning where I hadn't before, and also to understand properly what everybody else's motives were, which has, in turn, created more depth. Depth which had been sadly lacking - hence the Q&A session in the first place. It was as if I'd worked out the plot and stuck to it as closely as possible, but had started to lose the bit of thread that made sense of, or clarified, everything. I'd gone off at a tangent here and there, which is fine - in fact, by the end of the exercise, I'd realised my story is as much about friendship as anything else, which I hadn't picked up at all before (!) - but certain things had ceased to make sense. (I know. What am I like? Call myself a writer?) It's like when you know you've got to confront someone about something, and you work out in your head all the clever, insightful, completely brilliant things you're going to say, but you haven't factored in their responses and feelings properly, so when you finally come face to face, they say something unexpected and you burst into tears. No? Just me?


Like posting my chapters as a blog, it's helped me to move things along nicely (a sort of mental laxative, as it were.) It's made me see what I've written so far with a fresh eye - I keep a supply of them under my desk for such occasions - and I thought it might be worth a mention, just in case anyone else out there is having a similar wobble and might find it useful.

Which I'm sure you won't as most of you lovely writers seem to be a lot cleverer than me, and possibly on the verge of being published any minute as it is (not that I'm bitter or anything...)


Kawana Aminata Oliver said...

Good post Gurl ;-)

SpiralSkies said...

I might interview my characters...

Love your 'invisible groping' question. Too busy thinking about my own answer to that to get any writing done now though!

Leigh said...

Sorry, off topic: Karen, you're tagged!


leigh - That's a wicked rumour... Oh. I see. Ooh, it looks like a difficult one, but I'll give it a whirl :)

Lane said...

That's a great idea Karen. I think I may have to give a couple of my characters very long memes in order to find out exactly what they're made of:-)

Am so glad I'm not the only one who has brilliant arguements arranged in her head and is then devastated when they are used in Real Life and the other person actually uses words and throws Brilliant Arguement off kilter.


Lane - I know, it's sooooo annoying and upsetting. Should only ever have arguments that have been pre-arranged, with an approved script both parties can stick to :)

JoBo said...

Juat found your Blog via 'A Strongly Worded Letter' and although we write different genres (I am attempting a crime novel) I really know where you are coming from! Keep writing!! Jo

FPDuck said...

I don't even bother arguing with folk anymore... I'm not a very good orator at the best of times, and I usually end up having to repeat myself because they didn't understand what I said.

Scuppers the impact of the argument, somewhat.

And then, like you say, they come out with something unexpected, I just walk away grumbling to myself.


Debs said...

What a great idea, I think I shall do the same. I need all the help I can get right now. I know what you mean about arguing in your head with someone. Mind you sometimes if I do that then I don't need to argue with the actual person as I've sorted out the problem in my head, if you get my drift!

Anonymous said...

Interviewing your characters, what a creative and inventive idea. Spot on.

Tom Foolery (TF) said...

Great post. Mental laxative, give me some right now! TFX

Sarah Dunnakey said...

Sounds like it was a useful exercise Karen. I've interviewed my characters before but I've always asked them pretty random questions, yours seem more focussed and have encouraged me to try again. Especially as I've got 'chaacter work' down on my to-do-list at the mo. I might also take the Heat approach to see what it uncovers and I like Lane's idea of tagging them with a meme.

CTaylor said...

I've tagged for me a meme! See my blog for details.

Fiona said...

I think interviewing your characters - wish we could call them something better - is a great idea. Did you get an unexpected answers?

Annieye said...

Brilliant post Karen. I know just what you mean about having things worked out in your head and then getting tongue tied.

If I've got a difficult telephone call to make I always write things down first because my head goes blank.

L-Plate Author said...

I always ask my characters 'what if' if I get stuck with a plot line or I don't want to come up with the obvious. I just open a word doc and let rip. It's amazing what comes so many answers and things that make the whole book much better in some cases.

Would have memed you but Leigh and Cally beat me to it. xx


Jobo - I'd like to write a crime novel...whenever I start though, I get all silly which is why I'm sticking with humour for now!

Mike - My need to 'clear the air' conflicts with my fear of confrontation. I'll do it if I must, but shake a lot afterwards.

Debs - I know what you mean - sometimes sorting the problem in your head saves a lot of hassle :)

Hullaballoo - Having interviewed them, I'd better damn well use them now!

Tf - It's good stuff - unless you've an addictive personality, obviously :)

Sarah - I liked Lane's idea of a MeMe as well, I might give it a whirl!

Cally - Thanks for the tag, I think someone else did as well, so I'm off for a little ponder!

Fiona - I DID get unexpected answers weirdly. For instance, I realised my main character's always felt like an 'outsider' which I hadn't picked up on before! Very useful.

annieye - I write things down before difficult phone calls too - otherwise my voice goes all trembly. Hopeless!

l-plate - It's surprisingly productive, I don't know why I didn't think of it before :) Off to do another MeMe now...thanks for the thought!

Poetess said...

Hello Karen

Thanks for visiting my site. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks for the advice in this post. I will try to employ it.


Moondreamer said...

Fab idea, thank you Karen!

If I'm really cross with someone, I'd rather write it down than discuss it in person, that way they have to listen and can't argue (though mostly, once I've written it down, I feel better and it just gets thrown away!) :o)

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