Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Talking with my Characters

Photo: Ashley Schweitzer via Minimography
Over Thanksgiving break, I got to do some writing. I'm a writer, so that probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but the fact is, I've been struggling to find writing time. I even publicly announced that I was going to jump (late) into NaNoWriMo, counting all of my words (including blogs) in an effort to at least give myself credit for writing something.

As it turns out, having class-free days helps a lot -- no big surprise there -- freeing up time usually spent in preparation, grading and in the classroom. I got back to my stalled work-in-progress and something wonderful happened.

I got excited about it again.

The best characters are a lot like real-life people. When writers fail to spend sufficient time with them, the relationships become strained.  Too many missed conversations lead to awkwardness between a writer and her characters, which, in turn, leads to a lot of time staring at a blank screen.

But, much like old friends, characters open up when a writer gives them her full attention. They speak and share their thoughts and opinions on everything from the situation in which they currently find themselves to their future hopes, dreams and fears.

Or maybe I just have bossy characters.

Carving out writing time over break re-opened old discussions, and, as it turns out, my characters had been harboring secrets, pondering decisions and making resolutions. Many of these were a surprise to me (one of the joys of being a "pantser" rather than a "plotter") and now I can't wait to have these new events play out on the page.

It's the last day of November, and though I got nowhere near the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal, I still feel a sense of accomplishment. Who knew that getting unstuck was as simple as re-opening the discussion?

I'm juggling multiple projects, so I know my writing challenges will continue until at least the end of the semester. But, now that I know that I can pull up a chair and restart a conversation with my characters, I'm much less anxious about time away from them.

And if there's one thing I can count on Marita and Bets for, it's a lively conversation.

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