Friday, November 27, 2009

Exploring The Inner Worlds Of Your Characters

I've discovered that while inspriation can often come out of nowhere, you better pay attention to it when it does come. Recently, I was sitting in Tampa's airport, trying to pass more time as my weather delayed flight got delayed even further, while also trying to drink more Starbucks coffee to shield out Florida's "rival the inside of a freezer" air conditioning. I wasn't thinking about my current novel in progress deliberately. I was actually trying to continue reading Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea", which seems to be taking an unnatural amount of time for an avid reader like myself. But anyhow, when your mind drifts either out of boredom, association or just plain randomness, it's best to document that journey.

When a writer sits down, deliberately, to start writing, there are often gaps, blanks, "writer's block", self-critques and edits. Sometimes the best thing to do is let your inner guide do the work for you. It'll come in a flash, when you least expect it, when you're often trying to focus on something else, when you're multi-tasking or just simply ruminating. I liken it to the order that seemingly comes out of chaos or the way the pieces of nature seem to fit together without any real explanation.

In our waking lives we often have inner dialogues, which reveals our motivations, wishes, desires, regrets, intentions and so on. It's a part of ourselves that rarely gets revealed and isn't always easily detected. Our inner worlds are the part of ourselves that we sometimes feel we have to masquerade through our outside expression and actions. Those with sensitivity see, or rather "sense" right through it, but we still go on pretending that we are those outside projections that we've created.

Showing this "inner chaos" is vital in revealing who the characters are in our stories. There are several techniques, but the stream of consciousness style, which was pioneered by James Joyce, is one that I often rely on. What are your character's thoughts? What is he or she telling him or herself? What are your character's reflections on a particular experience or a period in their lives? What are they feeling at that moment? How would those feelings express themselves internally? What outward reaction might your character transpire in order to conceal the intensity of those emotions?

Write these down as you explore them. It doesn't have to be in order. There are no rules for time sequences, character sequences, first, second or third person sequences. Throw out the notion of it being linear. Throw out the rules of grammar, syntax and complete sentences. Carefree freedom is the only muse you need here. Often times you'll be surprised to discover that continuity has unintentionally woven its subtext between your characters and their story.

No comments:

Post a Comment