I have Elizabeth Sims to thank for this post. Odd, because I don't know Elizabeth Sims, but the fact is, she wrote an article that led me to look at my work-in-progress in a whole new light, and for that, credit is due.
I almost didn't read the article. As a rule, I keep an issue of Writer's Digest in my car for those times when I find myself with unexpected time on my hands. As it turns out, several Fridays ago was one of those times.
Over lunch at Subway, I perused the January 2011 issue (yes, I'm a little behind), flipping past anything that didn't capture my interest that day. It was that kind of a day. Since I'm long past the first chapter of my novel, Elizabeth's article, "8 Ways to Write a Five Star Chapter One," wasn't necessarily timely, but something about her opening caught my eye, proving once again that a strong lead matters.
In the article, Elizabeth posed a question I had never considered: Who am I and why am I writing this book?
Huh. As I said, I'm way beyond the first chapter of my novel; in fact, I'm closing in on the end. But this question struck me so intensely that I stopped reading and started writing, answering the questions she'd posed, and I found that I could articulate my answers quite clearly.
Far from being fluffy or irrelevant, these answers had been the guiding force of my characters' development and actions all along. In addition,they held the key to those reactions I couldn't quite put into words when someone in my critique group suggested a course of action that seemed at once perfectly logical and perfectly wrong.
As I complete and revise my novel, I will keep these answers in mind, knowing they'll help me stay true to my characters. And, to my writer friends, I pose the same question: Who are you, and why are you writing this novel?