Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Shame of Forgetting to Take Your Own Advice

by Jackie King

There are two writing challenges I’m facing just now. The first is creating a protagonist (heroine, in this case) for a new series I’m trying to concoct. The second is working with old characters in order to get my current work to the publisher.

Creating new characters is pure fun. Playing with those who have been around for a few years can sometimes be a bit tedious. These fictitious folk have had time to develop an attitude. To add insult to injury, I fear they learned this unpleasant trait from me. 

Not wanting to write is sort of like a young woman with a would-be admirer she’s (at first) uninterested in. The guy seems dull to her, and she doesn’t want to go on the date she’s agreed to. She does it anyway, because she promised.

This is what I’m like when I don’t want to write, but have to. I type what seems to be one dull word after another. Then later I’m astonished (as is the young woman) when the dullard springs to life and becomes exciting. This is part of the magic of writing fiction.

Writer’s block has been jokingly described as, “When your imaginary friends won’t come out and play.” In fact, I have a T-shirt with that in scripted on the front. But the opposite is also true. Sometimes writers just don’t want to play with the people they have created, that day. This happens to me quite often.

We writers can find very creative excuses for this malady. One writer friend I know used this method:

“You told me to make sure you wrote on this trip,” I’d say.

She’d lean back in her chair, shoot me an ultra-wise look, and tap her forehead. “I am writing,” she’d say. “Up here, in my mind.”

I never argued, because that’s not my style, but I also never believed her. When I’m writing or brainstorming for new characters or plots, I find it necessary to be at my computer or have pencil and paper at the ready.

Ideas can flash through a writer’s mind with such brilliance that you know you’ll forget never forget them. How could you? The character or plot concept seemed so alive it couldn’t fade. But it does. The inspiration burns itself out for want of a pencil and turns into ashes.

By the time I decided to put my rear in the chair and record my masterpiece, the whole thought had disintegrated. Much to my own chagrin, that sometimes still happens. Usually when I’m out somewhere with nothing to write on or with. Which, of course, is my own fault. I’ve told students to always carry a pen and notebook or index cards in their purse or pocket.

Oh, the shame of not listening to your own advice.

Just now I’m brainstorming for a new protagonist. (To non-writers, that’s the main character who is telling the story.) I’m interviewing females from 60 upwards to relate some new adventures.

Ms. Protagonist will have younger relatives to add balance to the story. One might be a a grown granddaughter who is also a police psychologist. To add depth and interest, this young woman could love anime and dress up each year for Tokyo in Tulsa. As a hobby she might conjure up characters by doodling pictures like these:

Brother and Kid travel a deserted wasteland

Thorn, a thief, wrestling with his own pride
All characters were created and sketched by Morgan Sohl

At this stage there are no limits, and I’m having so much fun that the old characters may have to wait for awhile. 


Jean Henry Mead said...

I thought about my older protagonists for nearly a year before I gave birth to them. Then a daughter suddenly appeared when a writer's block was looming. Bringing in new characters always seems to help me gain new perspective or take off in a new direction. Good post, Jackie.

Jackie King said...

Thanks, Jean. I'm going to keep in mind your advice for fighting writer's block.